Biofuels: ethical issues

Concerns over energy security, economic development and climate change are driving the development of biofuels.

This report sets out an ethical framework to guide policy making for both current and future biofuels.

Key recommendations

  • Targets that consider consequences of production

    Current European and national biofuels targets should be replaced with a more sophisticated target-based strategy that considers the wider consequences of biofuel production.

  • Ethical standard for biofuels

    Improved target-based strategy should incorporate a comprehensive ethical standard for all biofuels developed in and imported into the EU, enforced through a certification scheme.

  • Financial support and advice from the EU

    The EU should provide financial support and advice to countries that might find it difficult to certify biofuels in this way

  • Guide decision making in a wider policy context

    The ethical standard and associated certification scheme should ideally be applied to all similar technologies and products to guide decision making in a wider policy context.

  • Research into economic and social impacts

    More research should be carried out on the economic and social impacts of intellectual property related to the development of biofuels.

  • Local and small-scale biofuel production

    Biofuels policies and future sustainability initiatives should not discourage local, small-scale biofuel production, particularly in developing countries that experience fuel poverty.

  • Incentivisation of research and development

    Policy makers should incentivise research and development of new biofuels technologies that need less land and other resources, avoid social and environmental harms, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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Nuffield Council on Bioethics
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