The Ethics of Biofuels

Source:  CO2 Science

In a Policy Forum article in Science, Buyx and Tait (2011) say that “climate change is predicted to impose increasing harms, in particular on those most disadvantaged,” and they go on to state, in their very next sentence, that “thus, climate change mitigation is a vital common good.”

With this declaration as the starting point of their discussion, the two academics approvingly note that “mandatory targets for introduction and blending of biofuels have been introduced” by both the European Union and the United States, even though, as they acknowledge “there are serious concerns about negative effects on food security, the environment, and the rights of farmers and landholders in developing countries,” after which — using various derivatives of the word ethics some 20-plus times — they strive to make the production and use of biofuels as palliative as possible. But have they not put the cart before the horse in terms of the ethics of biofuels?

Is it ethical, for example, to impose mandatory targets on the creation and utilization of certain substances (biofuels) merely because the substances they are designed to replace (fossil fuels) are predicted to impose increasing harm on society? … and especially when that prediction is challenged by numerous other scientists (Idso and Singer, 2009)? … and even more so when the replacement substances are known to have a host of negative effects on such important things as food security, the environment, and the rights of farmers and landholders? … and still more so when the goal is to reduce the atmospheric concentration of a substance that vastly improves the growth and water use efficiency — as well as a host of other beneficial properties (Idso and Idso, 2011) — of nearly all plant life on the planet?

It should be abundantly clear to everyone that before one discusses “ethics” in the context of earth’s climate and biosphere, one must first determine the validity (or not!) of the “predictions” that are being made by the world’s climate alarmists. Is earth’s climate truly being impacted by the burning of fossil fuels in the host of negative ways they claim it is? Or is it not being so impacted? Likewise, it is necessary to determine if earth’s plants are truly being helped in the host of positive ways suggested by the hundreds of scientists who have conducted literally thousands of atmospheric CO2 enrichment studies of them. And until both of these fundamental sets of questions are satisfactorily answered, there is no basis to even consider the “ethics” of such things as the production and utilization of biofuels. Such determinations cannot be validly made without a sure knowledge of the undergirding — and demonstrable — scientific facts of the matter.

References

Buyx, A. and Tait, J. 2011. Ethical framework for biofuels. Science 332: 540-541.

Idso, C.D. and Idso, S.B. 2011. The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment. Vales Lakes Publishing, Inc., Pueblo, Colorado, USA.

Idso, C.D. and Singer, S.F. (Eds.). 2009. Climate Change Reconsidered: 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois, USA.