Sustainable development dilemmas and ethics of biofuels research and production in South Africa .

Ngubevana, Lwazi Bonginkosi.
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ABSTRACT The concept of sustainable development is said to have faced challenges right from its inception, both in interpretation and practical application. These challenges vary from political to administrative barriers in the move towards ecologically and socially acceptable development strategies which seem to threaten profitability, employment and power. The incomplete understanding and perception of the problems of poverty and environmental degradation also adds to this confusion. The threat of global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions and the evergrowing energy needs of the world, has forced the world into thinking differently about our sources of energy and sustainable development, giving rise to the relatively new field of biofuels. Research and the introduction of new technologies by their very nature, look to bring about positive changes in society. It is almost inevitable however, that these positive changes bring about with them unintended, unexpected, unforeseen, unforeseeable and often unaddressed negative consequences. It often becomes the role of research ethics protocols to militate against these negative consequences. It is in this context that it was important to establish the levels of awareness among South African researchers and producers of biofuels, to the sustainable development dilemmas brought about by their work. This research focused on establishing the levels of awareness of the dominant sustainable development issues and ethical conflicts that arise from biofuels production and research and whether this translated into how companies communicate the benefits of their products. The aim was also to establish the role that research ethics protocols play in mitigating the negative consequences that may be brought about by work done in this field. The research was carried out on three South African businesses, Matayo Biofuels, Khepri Energy and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Data was generated from interviews with relevant people in the companies and collaborating data was collected from company publications. Once completed, this report concluded that researchers were indeed acutely aware of the dilemmas that face their industry and that research ethics protocols were seen to play a big role, albeit that most of the researchers were not aware of their existence in their industry. In both the research and the literature review, it was found that the biggest dilemma that the biofuels industry faces is the conflict of producing food versus producing fuel, coupled with concerns over land tenure of vulnerable societies. Other critical issues that came out of the research were protecting the environment and sustainability of the biofuels industry, the lack of communication and communication platforms within the industry, the necessity of setting up industry-specific ethics protocols, the need for researchers to take personal responsibility for the applications of their work and the role that government policy can play in addressing the dilemmas facing this sector. All of these factors were in agreement with what was discussed in literature.
MBA 2014
Energy development -- Environmental aspects, Biomass energy industries, Sustainable development.