Biofuels Bonanza? Exploring community perceptions of the promises and perils of biofuels production

Theresa Selfa, Laszlo Kulcsar, Carmen Bain, Richard Goe, Gerad Middendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


While the expansion of the biofuels industry has received scholarly attention with respect to environmental and food security concerns, little research has explored the impacts of biofuels industry on local communities where ethanol plants are located. Drawing on sociology of networks and flows theory to situate expansion of the industry globally, this paper uses a community case study approach to examine local community perceptions of benefits and burdens of the ethanol industry. Data from community level surveys, individual and focus group interviews in three case study communities in Iowa and Kansas in the Midwestern region of the United States are utilized to explore community perceptions. Results show that community members believe that ethanol plants have brought modest economic benefits to their community. Increased traffic and water competition were two areas of concern identified by residents with respect to local ethanol plants, but other environmental impacts were not prominently identified by community members. Widespread concerns were expressed about future viability of the ethanol industry and the devastating impacts that future declines in the industry would have on communities. This research highlights the social vulnerabilities that place-bound communities in biofuels regions are experiencing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1389
Number of pages11
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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