Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems




Biofuels are fuels generated through the processing of biomass for energy. They can be solids, in the form of biofuels like wood derivatives (pellets, paper, charcoal, etc.), digested biomass (like cow dung). They can be liquids, like biodiesel, ethanol, and methanol. Or they can be a gas, like methane. The advantage to biofuels is that they can be a very useful way to store and transport (solar and chemical) energy that is immediately available for use, like fossil fuels. As well, biofuels present possible opportunities for zero-carbon emissions (over the lifecycle). The difficulties biofuels present are mainly that: biofuels are more processing intensive and expensive than fossils; biofuels also require significant land and resources that can compete with needs for food crops, thus driving up prices on food; and that biofuels, if not managed correctly, can produce very little reduction in overall emissions for a significant cost. In this module, you will learn about the various types of biofuels, learn of reasons why a lifecycle analysis is required to determine the value of a biofuel process, and investigate.

Lesson Objectives

  • Recognize why biofuels are of interest.
  • Categorize types of plants used for biofuels.
  • Be informed about the basic science behind biofuel production.
  • Conduct a stakeholder analysis.
  • Identify and reason through ethical issues in the production of bioethanol.

What is due for Lesson 4?

This lesson will take us two weeks to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific timeframes and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Lesson 4: Assignments
Requirements Assignment Details
To Do Familiarize yourself with all the Lesson 4 Readings and assignments.

Week 5:

Week 6:


Week 5: Draft of Ethics Matrix 2b (Broader Social and Environmental Impacts) and the Stakeholder Analysis Matrix. Post questions and comments in the discussion forum. To post, go to the course in Canvas, click on Lesson 4, post on Lesson 4 Discussion.

Week 6: Apply Ethics Matrix 2b (Broader Social and Environmental Impacts) and the Stakeholder Analysis Matrix in an analysis of biofuels. That is, fill out the matrices and use them to help you identify significant stakeholder and ethical issues and write up an analysis that broadly identifies ethical considerations in the three main categories and discusses the relationship of those issues to the stakeholders. This should be roughly 600-750 words in length. To submit, go to the course in Canvas, click on Lesson 4, submit to Assignment 4 - Analysis of Biofuels.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum (not email), located under the Discussions tab in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.