The Evolutionary Dynamics of Biofuel Value Chains: From Unipolar and Government-Driven to Multipolar Governance

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In this paper I propose to push the frontier of global value chain (GVC) governance analysis through the concept of ‘polarity’. Much of the existing GVC literature has focused on ‘unipolar’ value chains, where one group of ‘lead firms’ inhabiting a specific function in a chain plays a dominant role in governing it. Some scholars have explored the dynamics of governance in GVCs characterized as ‘bipolar’, where two sets of actors in different functional positions both drive the chain. I expand this direction further to suggest conceptualizing governance within a continuum between unipolarity and multipolarity Empirically, I do so by examining the evolutionary dynamics of governance in biofuel value chains, with specific focus on the key regulatory and institutional features that facilitated their emergence and expansion. First, I examine the formation, evolution, and governance of three national/regional value chains (in Brazil, the US, and the EU); then, I provide evidence to support a trend towards the increasing but still partial formation of a global biofuel value chain and examine its governance traits.