Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Geography

Major Professor

Pratyusha Basu, Ph.D.

Keywords

Biofuels, Sugar ethanol, Oil, Agriculture, Environmental impacts

Abstract

Ethanol production has been widely perceived as a solution to the global energy crisis, with the added benefit of reinvigorating declining agricultural economies. Moves towards dedicating crop production to ethanol however have raised a number of concerns related to its economic and environmental consequences. Missing from this debate is a consideration of the ways in which sugar can be used as a feedstock for ethanol, an issue that is especially pertinent within the state of Florida. The national commitment and scale of corn ethanol production in the U.S. has largely meant a lack of focus on other feedstocks which could be more effective means of ethanol production. This thesis demonstrates perspectives on sugar ethanol among key stakeholders within the state of Florida. Through semi-structured key informant interviews, it examines the forces that are promoting or thwarting ethanol production within the Florida landscape. In doing so, this research makes four contributions to energy and environmental studies.. First, it addresses the extent to which overdependence on oil in developed and emerging nations can be mitigated by integrating renewable fuel into supply systems. Second, it provides a wider outlook on biofuels, by investigating whether sugar ethanol can become a viable renewable fuel model within the U.S. Third, it adds a place-based study to national and international debates over biofuels, showing both how the issue of biofuels has unique dimensions in Florida and how it connects to broader debates over corn ethanol in the U.S. and sugar ethanol in Brazil. Finally, the turn towards sugar ethanol becomes an especially important issue to study within Florida given the current controversies over offshore drilling as well as the negative environmental impacts on the Everglades ecosystem associated with sugar cultivation in south Florida.

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