Biofuels: ethics and policy-making



Mandatory targets for biofuels have led to their rapid global adoption, but ethical problems with their large-scale production are widely reported. Research is underway to find new biofuel technologies that mitigate climate change and can be produced sustainably and economically. Following an 18-month inquiry, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has developed an ethical framework for biofuels policy-making. Based on a number of widely held ethical values, six ethical principles are introduced that should be considered in biofuels policy-making. Many current biofuels policies fail this ethical ‘test’. An overarching ethical standard for biofuels is proposed that includes the protection of human rights and the environment, full life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, trade principles that are fair, access and benefit-sharing schemes to encourage equitable distribution of costs and benefits, and instruments to incentivize the development of promising new approaches. The Council goes on to make recommendations for changes to current policy. © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd