Fuel vs Food and other Misbalances

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Ecological sustainable production and consumption often conflict with other ethical imperatives. Philosophers refer to such situations where two (or more) actions that are both morally imperative (or forbidden) cannot be realized simultaneously -46] - A paradigm of such a situation provides the use of biomass as a substitute for fossil resources. The required land area competes with agriculturally used land. The tortilla crisis gave some insight into this steeply growing potential for conflict - growing, as due to depletion the price of fossil resources rises, caused by a steep increase of world population. This growth, the increasing standard of living and the growing demand for energy supply based on renewable sources will lead to a bottleneck of land area in the future. To widen the area for cultivation, the use of marine-based feedstock is another option. For example, given the same solar irradiation algae can yield up to ten times more than typical land crops, since algae are able to use a greater proportion of the solar energy spectrum and is a much simpler organism, not wasting valuable energy on 'superfluous' things such as bark or flowers. Furthermore, algae reactors could be installed in areas which do not compete with food production. To date algae production is in its infancy. Metabolic optimization, nutrient recycling, and lower energy consumption during downstream processing need to be resolved. Competitive prices for algae below 500 €/ton is unlikely to be reached in the near future.

Current research tries to reflect the above-mentioned regional differing impacts, where a market demand in one region could cause a disequilibrium in another region, with world models. For example, - Model World 3- was developed in the 1970s to illustrate the mutual reaction between such factors as population, industrial growth, food production, exploitation of raw material reserves, land use and their influence on ecosystems -47, 48]- A later improved and updated version (1990s) added recent changes and innovations; for instance, more efficient technologies for energy generation and use, new materials, waste recycling and international conventions like the Kyoto protocol -49] - However, on the basis of these calculations, the conclusion was drawn that there are no borders for the innovativeness of mankind (which leads to a further efficiency) and the development of future generations (e.g., shrinking population in developed countries and growth in poorer regions) -50] . Other world models like the Bariloche model -2, 51], the DICE and RICE -52] or Stern' s PAGE model -53] have been developed, representing the impact of various economic and ecological features on human well being, both on a global scale and over various decades. Up to now details on the energy mix, human behavior, religious and political influences still largely remain unconsidered, because of finite computational power, or it is simply not known as to how represent these features. Commonly these models equate human well-being humbly with economic welfare, the gross domestic product (GDP) being the key variable. At the RWTH Aachen a world model has been developed that aims to represent human well-being in a more comprehensive way [54], thereby building on Anand and Sen's capability approach that was put into practice by the Human Development Index (HDI), an alternative measure of human welfare extending the GDP and the Human Poverty Index -55, 56] - Since 1990 these indices are often used in world-development-reports.

The question as to how much invest in biomass as a substitute for fossil resources today, always invokes the key question: How valuable are the resources in 60 years time (or less) compared with the value of land area for people's immediate needs. Prices, just like any future gains and losses, are discounted when they appear in the future. The discounting rate varies from one analysis to another, which renders the comparison between various analysis even more opaque (see Section 12.5.2). This is a particular flaw in the economic analysis of global warming -52, 53]- Particularly when non-monetary losses are involved, arguments for or against some discounting rate always has to invoke not only economic, but moral arguments as well.

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