Algal biofuels Impact significance and implications for EU multi-level governance

David Benson, Katherine Kerry, Gill Malin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Recent years have witnessed significant worldwide growth in research into the production of algal biomass for fuel, food and food supplements, nutrient recovery from wastewater and feedstocks for chemical and pharmaceutical industries. While there appear to be considerable future benefits, especially in terms of sustainable low carbon energy biofuels, emerging evidence suggests that large-scale algal production could impose multiple negative environmental impacts. Pressing questions therefore concern the significance of these impacts and the adequacy of attendant governance arrangements in ensuring environmental protection. To examine these questions, a qualitative impact assessment methodology is utilised to review, identify and compare the significance of potential impacts from several different production scenarios. Our findings show that significance varies not only between open pond and photo bioreactor (PBR) processes but also between land-based, coastal and marine production sites. We then examine how well these impacts are currently regulated in one specific political context, namely the European Union (EU). Analysis of EU environmental governance reveals evidence of significant policy mismatches and gaps. Recommendations for the future multi-level governance of algal biofuel technologies in the EU and globally are given, along with suggestions for further scientific and policy research as part of a wider investigative agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

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