Archive for March, 2013

The Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference

March 27, 2013

Tomorrow and the following day, I will attend The Sixth Annual Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference. The conference is of course held at the UC Berkeley campus. This year, the topic is The Bioeconomy After the Election. From the titles on the program, most talks are on biofuel and related to Brazil. David Zilberman, co-host and professor at UC Berkeley, features heavily on the speaker program (presenter or co-author in no less than 5 out of 9 sessions; in addition he will give a welcome address).

This year, the Sixth Annual Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference will focus on the alternative paths of the evolution of the bioeconomy, including biofuels, agricultural biotechnology, and green chemistry. The Conference will include general sessions on the evolution of the technological and policy challenges facing the bioeconomy as well as analyses of the political-economy considerations shaping the bioeconomy. We will address specific sectors, in particular biofuel in Brazil and agricultural biotechnology. We will also highlight up-and-coming biofuels and the interaction of biofuel and biodiesel.

Agriculture in the US has in the later years shifted heavily towards production of biofuel. In Brazil, on of the largest agricultural producers in the world, shifts towards biofuel have large and widespread consequences. In Brazil and elsewhere, biofuel leads to increased food prices and increased farmland prices. As far as I understand, the entire biofuel enterprise hinges on a high oil price. If the oil price plunges, biofuel is out. After the conference, I hope to have a deeper and broader understanding of both the ethics and economics of all these weighty issues. Not to speak of the political economy aspects, which I also look forward to learn of.

Perhaps I also will get a renewed understanding of ‘bioeconomics,’ a term I have misused in the past according to others.



Quote of the Day

March 3, 2013

People often use the passive voice because it’s indirect, polite, unaggressive, and admirably suited to making thoughts seem as if no one had personally thought them and deeds seem as if nobody had done them, so that nobody need take responsibility. Thus the passive is beloved of bureaucrats and timid academics…

From ‘Steering the Craft’ by Ursula K. LeGuin.