- Ecological arguments. The public opinion is generally positive on biofuel development and often associates this energy with considerations of global warming and other ecological issues. As public concerns for such issues are expanding in the EU, USA and Canada, the biofuel industry actively promotes such mental association. In order to accelerate the implantation of biofuels in the transportation area, however, it would be useful to give it a more “sustainable” orientation. Research on cellulosic biofuel, for example, will raise more public support.
- Economics and national security. The current dependence on foreign oil is a major argument in the USA in favour of biofuel promotion. The general public is well aware of the economic and national security consequences of such dependence, and willing to see them reduced. The effectiveness of this argument, nevertheless, depends on whether the dependence on foreign oil will be eventually reduced by increasing the use of biofuel.
- Public policy promotion of biofuel. The current wave of public policies promoting biofuels in America and the EU is very positive, not only on economic terms, but also regarding public acceptability. Governments use biofuel promotion as a tool to convince that ecological issues, national security and economic dependence on foreign oil are addressed. This will certainly accelerate biofuel development in the years to come as long as the public and the media are convinced. Once again, orienting biofuel towards more “sustainability” will be very useful for its massive development
- Cost for the consumer. Not all individuals take their decisions from ethical grounds or act as citizens of the world. Effective acceptability of biofuels depends on the price the consumer will have to pay. Where biofuels are seen as valuable for ecology or national security, individuals or national governments might accept to participate to a greater extent. Research is necessary on how much actors sharing such views may be willing to pay, in order to identify to what extent the price of biofuels is an effective roadblock for its implantation.
- GM development. There is great probability that a world-wide increasing demand for biofuels will lead to actively generating biomass through genetic engineering. NGOs are starting to consider this aspect, and many share an opposition against GM crops and foods and would certainly battle against such massive engineering. More importantly perhaps, the public opinion, already wary about GM food, would very probably react negatively to GM biomass.
- Ecological, economic and social negative impacts. First-generation biofuels inspire critics and caution from NGOs and European Green parties, for their possible or effective ecological, economic and social negative impacts. The media focus on these aspects is expanding. Awareness from the public opinion will take time, and will probably happen at a moment when biofuels are massively used. When this happens, will the public accept such negative impacts, as it has generally done with fossil fuels, or how negatively will it react? The competition between fuel and food might be attenuated by developing more eco-sustainable biomass derived from other sources than food crops. Such attenuation, though, needs early preparation, otherwise transition costs towards such sustainable biomass could be very high.
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BIOFUELS PRODUCTION, TRADE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - EMERGING ISSUES