Are Biofuels Ethical?

05/09/2011 |


The race to develop biofuels is on, and an article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy is taking a look at ethical issues and questions surrounding the rapid rise of this emerging energy.

Professor Joyce Tait, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Biofuels, and Scientific Adviser to the Innogen Centre at Edinburgh University, reports on the Council's proposed development of a comprehensive ethical standard for biofuels.

The standard would address six ethical principles surrounding production of biofuels, including the protection of human rights, environmental sustainability, greenhouse gas reduction, and fair trade.

Without these principles, there is concern that rushing to meet aggressive biofuel targets could harm the environment and violate human rights.

"Biofuels are one of the only renewable alternatives we have for transport fuels such as petrol and diesel, but current policies and targets that encourage their uptake have backfired badly. The rapid expansion of biofuels production in the developing world has led to problems such as deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people. We want a more sophisticated strategy that considers the wider consequences of biofuel production,” says Tait.

These ethical guideline standards could be adopted worldwide and enforced via a certification program, and could be used as a benchmark for other products and developing technologies.

For more information and discussion regarding the ethics of biofuel development, visit

Advances in Biofuel Technology

Sorghum Grass for Biofuel?

Biomass Research and Development

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