Biofuels Cannot Be Called Sustainable in UK Advert: Board Upholds George Monbiot's Complaint


Rapeseed field. Photo:John via flickr

The debate over the true ecological sustainability of biofuels, the effects on global food prices, and their oft-heard claims of carbon-neutrality has been played out on TreeHugger in great detail. Adding a new item to the discussion is a recent ruling by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, which has upheld a complaint by journalist George Monbiot that ads by the Renewable Fuels Association were misleading in their claims that biofuels were "sustainable". The exact wording found to be objectionable and the reasoning is as follows:The RFA had produced ads which proclaimed in large text at the bottom which referred to biofuels in general as a "sustainable answer to OPEC's oil".

Biofuels Sustainable by Dictionary Definition: RFA
RFA defended its used of that language on the grounds that biofuels met the Oxford English Dictionary definition of 'sustainable', that biofuels were not the primary factor in last years rising food prices, and both the OECD and the USDA say that there is room globally to expand agricultural production without increasing deforestation or otherwise degrading ecosystems.

But ASA Sides With Gallagher Review
The ASA countered by citing the Gallagher Review, which asserts that unless better policies are put in place to regulate biofuels, expanded production is likely to result in net increases of greenhouse gas emissions and cause a decrease in biodiversity through habitat destruction. Until such policies are in place it would be misleading to call biofuels sustainable.

Was It The Right Decision?
So what do TreeHugger readers think? I have a good idea of what the responses will be, but weigh in on two things: 1) Was the ASA right in its ruling that without better oversight biofuels aren't sustainable; and 2) Do you think that such rulings really do much to prevent false claims in advertising?

On the second I am of two minds. On one hand I think it good to have some procedure to make formal complaints about misleading ads, but on the other I wonder if it does any good and just doesn't result in companies making ambiguous claims that are in fact harder to refute.

More: ASA ruling on Renewable Fuels Association

via: Business Green
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Tags: Advertising | Biofuels | George Monbiot | Renewable Energy | United Kingdom

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