EU Biofuel Targets are 'Unethical', says Bioethics Council

EU Flag of Europe biofuels image

Image: EU Flag, public domain.
If You Do It, Do It Right
The European Union's Renewable Energy Directive aims for 10% of transportation fuels in Europe to be biofuels by 2020. As we pointed out many times, there are lots of problems with the current crop of biofuels, most of which are made from plants that would otherwise be used as food. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics agrees, and after an 18-month inquiry, it recommend that targets be lifted immediately because they are "unethical".
biofuel plant photo

I know, it's not a biofuel plant in the EU. But they all look similar... Photo: fredthomson, Flickr, CC.
The Wider Picture Must be Considered
The bioethics council writes: "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."

"Researchers are developing new types of biofuels that need less land, produce fewer greenhouse gases and do not compete with food, but commercial-scale production is many years away," said Professor Ottoline Leyser, one of the authors of the report. "The government should do more to encourage research into these more ethical types of biofuels."

That's an important point. It's not enough to just say: "There's a solution around the corner, so don't worry about it." Efforts must also be made to bring that solution to market and replace the bad way of doing things as quickly as possible. But unfortunately, too many people get too many subsidies to wish for truly sustainable, non-food biofuels to come about quickly.

The report argues for a set of ethical guidelines:

  • Biofuels development should not be at the expense of human rights
  • Biofuels should be environmentally sustainable
  • Biofuels should contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Biofuels should adhere to fair trade principles
  • Costs and benefits of biofuels should be distributed in an equitable way

These can of course be applied to other things than biofuels. Electricity generation should adhere to these principle just as much.

The whole report can be found here.

See also: U.S. Doctors Say Biofuels Could Kill 192,000+ Per Year in Developing Countries

Via Nuffield Bioethics Council, BBC
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