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BBSRC Bioenergy Champion responds to major report on ethics of biofuels

13 April 2011

Responding to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on Biofuels, Duncan Eggar, BBSRC Bioenergy Champion and chair of the RCUK Cross Council Bioenergy Strategic Coordination Group said "The ethics of biofuel research and development are very important and it is timely to draw all of these issues together in this helpful report, which we welcome. We recognise that future work must build on existing research in this area. We look forward to working with the authors, and others, to ensure that our activities take into account the full range of potential ethical issues as identified in the report.

"Biofuels are currently the only viable alternative for liquid transport fuels - in particular for long distance and heavy duty road transportation, as well as aviation and marine transport - and so it is vital that new sustainable technologies are developed that minimise the ethical concerns outlined in the report. The call for incentives to develop new technologies in biofuels is welcome and such incentives will support our efforts to build on current research in newer more sustainable biofuels. The research councils have already made significant investments in sustainable biofuels research and it is clear that further investment will be needed to achieve higher yields of wood and straw from sustainable biofuel crops and improve the efficiency of conversion of such raw materials into fuels. The research councils and the Technology Strategy Board are working together with other stakeholders, as appropriate, to ensure that future research is coordinated, well focussed, and avoids potential pitfalls including many of the areas of concern outlined in the report.

"The report raises some important questions about land use, biodiversity and the life cycle and net carbon emissions of biofuel technologies. Research council funded research, including that carried out by the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC), the SUPERGEN bioenergy initiative - a cross council initiative that is part of the RCUK Energy Programme - and various projects funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, includes consideration of these issues. We also fully recognise that scale up of biofuel technology in the commercialisation process is an issue that has to be addressed. The research councils, working together with the Technology Strategy Board, are examining possible avenues of work in order to address this aspect of biofuel development."

To view the report visit: www.nuffieldbioethics.org/biofuels-0

ENDS

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