The effects of stakeholder values on biofuel feedstock choices

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Biofuels, like any emerging technology, have the potential to cause ethical dilemmas by exposing the colliding values of multiple stakeholders. Policy is an instrument used to buffer these collisions. In the case of biofuels, policy must seek to balance the postulated positive and negative environmental and socioeconomic effects of biofuels expansion and the associated development of new feedstocks. At best, this is a precarious endeavor. The biofuels community faces extreme ethical scrutiny to account for not only the direct effects of widespread adoption but the indirect effects as well. For example, biofuels used in the U.S. and E.U. must account for not only their own carbon footprint, but any emissions associated with market-mediated land-use change in other countries. This type of accounting requires development of new analytical methodologies and improved data coverage. In large part, the interactions between stakeholders surrounding these controversies will determine what role biofuels play in a range of issues including: (1) our future energy portfolio; (2) the strategies adopted to mitigate climate change; (3) changes in agriculture including the types of feedstocks used and how these feedstocks are grown; and (4) how to best manage the increasing demands of humans on resources and the environment. The acceptance of biofuel feedstocks as "renewable" or "sustainable" epitomizes the myriad ethical issues accompanying biofuel expansion. In this chapter, several biofuel feedstocks and the criteria by which different stakeholders judge them is examined to illustrate some of the alignments and conflicts in stakeholder values and how they affect feedstock choices, especially in the nascent cellulosic ethanol industry. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

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ACS Symposium Series