Land is a critical, and potentially limiting factor for the biofuels sector.2
The area of land currently used
for biofuels production is small, but it has increased many times over in recent years. Land is a steadily declining resource globally. As the world population grows and climate change fluctuations increase (e.g. changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, and frequency and magnitude of extreme events) the demand for land will continue to grow. Furthermore, as developing countries develop economically, demand for food will rise and diets are expected to change to a more energy-intensive, animal-based diet. Crop yields are only just keeping pace, with bioenergy just one of many competing demands.
The question that needs to be asked at the outset of any biofuels development is straightforward: what is the best way to use a hectare of land? Unfortunately, there is no generic response, with the answer depending on the conditions prevailing in a given country as well as trade-offs between policy objectives.
2. The issue of land is not unique to biofuels, but important for all sectors that depend on land resources.
Energy input-output differs greatly between different feedstocks and fuels depending on local variables and production practices.
Land is a critical, and potentially limiting factor for the biofuels sector...
The energy gain from biofuels is often expressed as a ratio of biofuel energy output to fossil energy input. However, when considering which biofuels are the most efficient using this metric, allowance must also be made for whether or not co-products such as animal feed and other forms of energy or biomass production are involved. Economically, the value of co-products is also critical; and together with various subsidies and tax incentives associated with ethanol and biodiesel, should also be part of an economic feasibility study of biofuels production. The various uses of biomass (food and materials) are also a key factor; and local traditions and practices need to be taken into account.
3 751 5524 736
Differentiation between crops, land-use and end-use efficiency
Tonnes of oil equivalent
1.2 0.3 0.4 0.9 0.7 0.3 0.4
Ethanol Land 1 Hectare
Sources: FAO, The State of Food and Agriculture, 2008; Hill J., et al, The environmental, economic and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels, PNAS, 2006; Groom et al: Biofuels and Biodiversity, 2008; EPA, Fuel Mileage Tables, online database; BFIN, Online conversion tables.
Figure 3.1.1 Diff erentiation between crops, land-use and end-use effi ciency 19
from Maize (United States)
from Soybean (United States)
from Oil palm (Malaysia)