Biofuel energy, ancestral time and the destruction of Borneo: An ethical perspective

Michael S. Northcott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The European Commission’s 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (RED) mandates that 10 per cent of liquid fuels used in the European Union must be composed of plant-derived fuels by 2020. The forests of Borneo, like those of other tropical regions, have been and are being destroyed, their rich biodiversity and human cultures eroded, and the stored greenhouse gases in their biomass and soils released to the atmosphere, in order to generate short-term profits from primary resource markets for tropical timber and tropical plantation products including EC-mandated biofuels. However far from saving carbon and protecting biodiversity, the promotion of these fuels has the opposite effects. From an ethical perspective the regulation on biofuels reveals an ontological misunderstanding of persons and other beings, which puts short-term accumulation of economic value above longer-term values. The medium-term temporality of global climate governance, combined with the short-term utilitarian calculus, has through this regulation supplanted ancestral temporalities which have traditionally governed the viability of tropical ecosystems and the ways of life for humans and other animals to dwell energetically and sustainably.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn Search of Good Energy Policy
EditorsMarc Ozawa, Jonathan Chaplin, Michael Pollitt, David Reiner, Paul Warde
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108639439
ISBN (Print)9781108481168, 9781108455466
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019


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