Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

Part 2 - Broader Social and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels


Part 2 - Broader Social and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels

Biofuels and Their Broader Impacts

What should be apparent from reading the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Report on Biofuels is that all biofuels pathways require us to think about the wide variety of possibly significant impacts that growing and processing feedstocks could have on populations and environments. All of these impact factors need to be taken into proper consideration when making an argument for a particular biofuels pathway. (Note: For those thinking about nonmarket aspects of biofuels, evaluation of the various impacts is essential to putting forward any sound strategy.)

Tools for Evaluating Broader Impacts

This course presents you with a few tools for identifying the range of possible broader impacts that could emerge from any large systems project, such as increasing biofuels production. Of course, there are a wide variety of broader impacts that may not present any ethical problems; but, here, we are going to focus on those impacts that do, or could present ethically significant issues in the consideration and evaluation of any renewable energy or sustainability strategy.

In Lesson 1.2, you were introduced to the concept of Broader Social and Environment Impacts as part of the EDSR framework. In Lesson 2.1, you were introduced to questions concerning the ethical treatment of stakeholders and nonhuman subjects, which includes the idea of a system as a subject. (The reason why the treatment of stakeholders and nonhuman subjects is considered a professional integrity issue is that these considerations ought to be a normal part of professional practice. In other words, the consideration of stakeholders and nonhuman subjects should be considered in terms of a direct impact and not necessarily a broader impact.) For this lesson, you will evaluate across the three dimensions of systems ethics (Matrix 1) and conduct a stakeholder analysis (Stakeholder Matrix).