The emergence of second generation (2G) biofuels is widely seen as a sustainable response to the
increasing controversy surrounding the first generation (1G). Yet, sustainability credentials of 2G biofuels
are also being questioned. Drawing on work in Science and Technology Studies, we argue that controversies
help focus attention on key, often value-related questions that need to be posed to address broader societal
concerns. This paper examines lessons drawn from the 1G controversy to assess implications for the
sustainability appraisal of 2G biofuels.
We present an overview of key 1G sustainability challenges, assess their relevance for 2G, and
highlight the challenges for policy in managing the transition. We address limitations of existing
sustainability assessments by exploring where challenges might emerge across the whole system of
bioenergy and the wider context of the social system in which bioenergy research and policy are done.
Key lessons arising from 1G are potentially relevant to the sustainability appraisal of 2G
biofuels depending on the particular circumstances or conditions under which 2G is introduced. We
conclude that sustainability challenges commonly categorised as either economic, environmental or social
are, in reality, more complexly interconnected (so that an artificial separation of these categories is
Mohr, A., & Raman, S. (2013). Lessons from first generation biofuels and implications for the sustainability appraisal of second generation biofuels. Energy Policy, 63, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.08.033