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Environment / Sustainability

'A Sociological Look at Biofuels' Feb. 17

February 15, 2010

When we look at the social, political, and economic contexts surrounding the introduction of biofuels and whether they've prevailed over conventional fuels, we can do a better job of understanding future trajectories for the widespread use of biofuels. Michael Carolan, associate professor of sociology at CSU, the first speaker in the Institute for Livestock and the Environment's spring semester series, will speak to the sociological contexts for biofuel technologies.

Michael Carolan, Ph.D., Colorado State University associate professor of sociology.

Wednesday, Feb. 17,
3-4 p.m.
Clark, Room C-251

The Institute for Livestock and the Environment Spring Semester Seminar Series presents Michael Carolan, Ph.D., Colorado State associate professor of sociology to share his research detailed in his new book, A Sociological Look at Biofuels: Understanding the Past/Prospects for the Future.

This is the first seminar in the Institute for Livestock and the Environment's Spring Semester 2010 Seminar Series. Students, faculty, and public welcome!

Biofuels: Past, present, future

Carolan will address three questions in the Wednesday seminar:

  • What were the dynamics of the first ethanol "boom" during the early decades of the 20th century and why did gasoline ultimately prevail?
  • What factors contributed to ethanol finally breaking through in the late 20th century?
  • What insights can we glean from the sociology, politics, and economics surrounding biofuels and its impact and how can this inform us about the future trajectory of biofuels?

What is the 'best' or 'optimal' technology?

Book cover image courtesy of Michael Carolan, Ph.D., CSU associate professor of sociology.

"I approach the subject of biofuels through a sociology-of-technology-and-innovation-lens," Carolan says. "This approach reminds us that the "best" or most optimal technology is socially, politically, and economically defined.

"For example, there are very good reasons why we ought to make the switch-over to so-called second generation fuels. But there are also very good reasons (social, economic, political) why this switch will not occur as fast as some would like.

"Similarly, our understanding of which biofuels are the most optimal varies depending upon what problem it is that we as a society think needs to be solved through these fuels.

"For example, if we're most concerned about global climate change, some biofuels seem to outperform others. In contrast, if our primary concern is about rural, economic development, other forms of biofuels might be seen as 'better.'

"Through this seminar, I hope to offer a more comprehensive context for the biofuel debate." 

Note: Feature image from cover of Michael Carolan's book, A Sociological Look at Biofuels.

Contact: Sarah G. Lupis
Phone: (970) 491-2326