Land use

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This page provides information about biofuels, bioenergy and land use. See also the page Indirect land use impacts of biofuels and the ILUC Portal.



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A landscape of forests and terraced fields, central Sri Lanka.

Contents

Introduction

Land use is a critical notion to understand direct and indirect impacts of any human activity on landscapes. The amount of land available in a given country or region must theoretically be compared to the country/region's needs in terms of food production, energy production, development of infrastructures or nature conservation, in order to establish a consistent and fair global land use strategy. Countries may have a deficit or an excess of land available; in the first case, land use becomes a problematic equation as priorities must be established. Whereas food production and conservation of nature should be the first priorities, timber, tourism or energy production are sometimes given way to generate quick profit.

Land use change as such is not necessarily an issue, because the new use that is made from land can be more beneficial for nature and people than the former one. However, land use change may also be responsible for a massive discharge of the carbon originally stored in the soil. The consequence is an increase of the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, which can, in the case of biofuels, considerably reduce the overall saving of GHG over the biofuel's life cycle. Complex issues arise when a change in land use displaces the former use into another region within or outside the country of concern. The consequences of this indirect land use change (iLUC) should theoretically be accounted in the impact assessment of the original production, which caused the iLUC. However, the complexity of this issue (especially, determining where iLUC happens and its intensity) makes difficult its inclusion in the impact assessment.

Issues

Deforestation for slash-and-burn agriculture in the tropics.

Events

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

News

2012

  • Is Bioenergy Expansion Harmful to Wildlife? 3 April 2012 by ScienceDaily: "Despite the predicted environmental benefits of biofuels, converting land to grow bioenergy crops may harm native wildlife. Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig [ Germany ] have developed a way to study the effects of increased energy crop cultivation on farmland bird populations."
    • "'The Skylark is an indicator species for agricultural areas because it occupies many habitats of the wider countryside around the globe, breeds on the ground within fields and feeds mostly on insects' notes lead researcher, Jan Engel. 'Improving the habitat suitability for Skylark, accordingly, would improve conservation of natural vegetation, insects, and other ground breeding farmland bird species.'"
    • "Mr. Engel and his colleagues developed a computer model that evaluated the habitat requirements of Skylark in a variety of bioenergy cultivation scenarios. The study, published in Global Change Biology Bioenergy, found that bioenergy crop expansion will not harm Skylark populations if field sizes are low, many crop types are present, and small natural areas, known as Integrated Biodiversity Areas, are included within the landscape. [1]
  • Land Matters – Sizing up the bioenergy potential of marginal lands, 5 March 2012 by Greg Breining: “During 2007-8, world food prices exploded…. Many analysts later pinned most of the blame on commodities speculation, oil prices, and weather—not biofuels production. But the food-versus-fuel debate had begun.”
    • “Today, looking beyond corn for ethanol toward the possibility of producing cellulosic and other new biofuels on a meaningful commercial scale, researchers and policymakers are asking: How can we raise new non-food feedstocks without displacing food crops?”
    • “Such concerns have driven the search for abandoned land. J. Elliott Campbell, assistant professor of engineering at the University of California, Merced and colleagues from Stanford University consulted historical land-use data dating to 1700, satellite land-cover imagery, and global ecosystem modeling to identify lands worldwide that had once been farmed but now lay idle.”
      • “Campbell’s and Cai’s assessments identify lands suitable for biofuel crops. That’s not to say they are economically viable. The actual acreage used for biofuel feedstocks will depend on land ownership, transportation costs, markets, prices of other crops, [etc.]…” [2]
  • ANALYSIS-Biodiesel doubts threaten EU green transport targets, 5 March 2012 by Charlie Dunmore and Ivana Sekularac, in Sharenet: "Growing consensus that EU may miss 2020 biofuel targets... Demand for biodiesel threatened by land use change studies... Switch to bioethanol seen as unlikely to make up shortfall."
    • "The European Union will almost certainly miss its 2020 targets for cutting transport fuel emissions if policymakers act on scientific warnings about the climate impact of biofuels."
    • "Several EU studies have questioned the climate benefits of biodiesel made from European rapeseed and imported palm oil and soybeans, and some have warned that it releases as many climate-warming emissions as conventional diesel."
    • "With two-thirds of EU biofuel use in 2020 projected to come from biodiesel, there is a growing consensus that any move to exclude some biodiesel feedstocks, such as the U.S. has proposed in the case of palm oil, would put the goals out of reach. Even if Europe tried to boost its use of bioethanol and advanced biofuels from non-crop sources to make up the shortfall, technical barriers and the EU's rising thirst for diesel would still leave it short of the mark." [3]
  • Biofuel feedstocks must prove their green credentials, 12 January 2012 by Farmers Weekly: "Under the Renewable Energy Directive, which recently came into effect in the UK, mandatory sustainability and carbon targets have been set for all biofuels sold in Europe."
    • "This complex regulation requires biofuel manufacturers to demonstrate that the feedstocks they use comply with minimum land sustainability standards and give at least a 35% greenhouse gas emissions saving over their fossil fuel equivalent."
    • "The introduction of a 'sustainability' declaration on grain passports last season, combined with updates to the Red Tractor crops scheme...is designed to address the RED land sustainability requirement by guaranteeing crops are not grown on land with a high biodiversity value or high carbon value (eg peat land) and that the land meets cross-compliance requirements."
    • "But it is the GHG saving requirement of the RED that has generated some concern, because of the use of 'default values' when calculating the total carbon footprint of different feedstocks, says Ian Waller of Fivebargate consultants...."
    • "Regional carbon footprint numbers for different crops are defined in official reports for each country - the UK calculations were done for the Department for Transport by consultancy AEA. But this report (known as NUTS2) suggests only a few areas of the UK have a lower GHG footprint than the required RED threshold for oilseed rape, none of which are in prime arable regions. This casts a question mark over how easily oilseed rape from such regions could go into biofuel markets in the future, Mr Waller says."[4]
  • Fuelish Choices, Uncut, published online January 2012 by John Sheehan for Momentum: "In spring 2011, I received an invitation from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to participate in a fact-finding mission to Brazil as part of a dialogue aimed at untangling contentious questions about the effect of biofuels on global land use change, known (in the insider jargon of policy wonks) as the indirect land use change or “ILUC”—pronounced “eye-luck”—effect of biofuels." [5]

2011

  • Biofuel aspirations spur 'land grabs' that hurt the poor, says report, 14 December 2011 by Mongabay.com: "More than 40 million hectares of land has been acquired in developing countries for biofuel production in the past decade, reports a new study published by the International Land Coalition."
    • "The research looked exclusively at large land acquisitions between 2000 and 2010. These amounted to 200 million hectares of land, of which the authors were able to discern the intent for 71 million ha."
    • "Surprisingly the report, titled 'Land Rights and the Rush for Land: Findings of the Global Commercial Pressures on Land Research Project', found that food production was only the focus of less than a fifth of the land deals. Nearly 60 percent was for biofuels."
    • "The report says that while large investments in agriculture can bring benefits, 'they are more likely to cause problems for the poorest members of society, who often lose access to land and resources that are essential to their livelihoods.' The reason? The rural poor often lack rights to the land they traditionally use. Furthermore, benefits from land deals typically skew toward local elites."[6]
  • Solving ILUC by Thinking Out of the Box, 15 November 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Assuming ILUC [indirect land use change] could occur, policymakers should go for measures that will not cause this leakage effect. They should go for a win-win situation and promote biofuels whilst, at the same time, adopting measures that promote only those biofuels without a high risk of unwanted land use changes."
    • "A consortium of nongovernmental organizations and industry was formed earlier this year to confront policy makers with this more positive, incentive-based approach. The partners, including Shell, Neste Oil, Riverstone Holdings LLC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Partners for Euro-African Green Energy and ePURE, commissioned Ernst & Young to study a policy approach that incentivizes ILUC-mitigation practices and supports best practices in the production of biofuels and crops for biofuels."
    • "All the policy options being studied by the European Commission have serious drawbacks. None encourage producers to adopt practices that reduce ILUC risks, nor do they improve investor confidence for biofuel development. By assigning a carbon credit to biofuels that prevent or reduce the risk of ILUC, Ernst & Young suggest, financial value can be created to incentivize the adoption of practices that prevent or mitigate ILUC."[7]
  • Biomass energy: Another driver of land acquisitions?, August 2011 by IIED: "Rapid expansion of biomass energy in the global North is fuelling demand for wood and increasing interest in tree plantations in the global South. But if biomass is sourced from food-insecure countries where local land rights are weak, there is a real risk that people could lose the land they depend on for their livelihoods. This briefing discusses the potential social impacts of biomass plantations in developing countries and calls for greater public scrutiny and debate about the issue."[8]
  • Brussels slammed for bad science on biofuels, 27 September 2011 by Euractiv: "Several environmental NGOs have written to the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, demanding action on five scientific studies that question the clean energy benefits of biofuels, as a row over a land use report by the EU's scientific advisors escalates."
    • "...[T]he letter cites five world-class studies for the EU which, it says, all agree that the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) effects of biofuels 'could not only negate the expected carbon savings, but even lead to an increase in emissions.'"
    • The most recent, a report by the scientific committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) slammed the official EU policy that biofuels are 'carbon neutral' as a 'serious accounting error' with 'immense' potential consequences."
    • "The letter's signatories include ActionAid, Birdlife, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, Oxfam, Transport and Environment and Wetlands International."
    • "The science involved in the report is of crucial importance. On Page 8, the EEA report cites the IEA as saying that biofuels could provide 20% of the world’s energy by 2050, and the UNFCCC claiming that bioenergy could supply 800 exajoules of energy per year (EJ/yr)."
    • "But today's entire global cultivatable land for food, feed, fibre and wood only has a chemical energy value of 230 (EJ/yr), just over a quarter of that figure."[9]
    • Download the NGO letter (PDF file)
  • First EU sustainability schemes for biofuels get the go-ahead, 19 July 2011 press release by the European Commission: "In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU, whether locally produced or imported, have to comply with sustainability criteria. These criteria aim at preventing the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and high carbon stock for the production of raw materials for biofuels. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35% lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time."
    • "Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognised by the Commission."
    • "After a detailed assessment made by the Commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognised:
      • ISCC (German (government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil)
      • RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil)
      • RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels)
      • 2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain)
      • Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil)
    • "The Commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels."[11]
  • Can Biofuels Save Sub-Saharan Africa?, 28 June by the Green Blog of the New York Times: "Last week, the journal Nature published a special outlook issue dedicated to the state of, and prospects for, biofuels production in an energy-hungry future. In the article 'A New Hope for Africa,' Lee R. Lynd, a professor of environmental engineering design at Dartmouth College, and Jeremy Woods, a lecturer on bioenergy at Imperial College in London, argue that, far from posing a direct threat to the world’s food supply, the development of an African bioenergy industry has a great potential to increase food security for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people."
    • "On marginal lands that cannot support agriculture in any case, they see great potential for biofuel crops, which require less water and nutrients. Africa’s vast land resources could also make the continent a competitive exporter of biofuels, which could bring in money for the basic infrastructure needed to transport and process food, they argued. It could also provide an economic incentive for rehabilitating degraded lands, the thinking goes."
    • "In an interview, Timothy Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, took issue with that idea, arguing that people in Africa are hungry partly because of diversions of land elsewhere to bioenergy and resultant spikes in food prices. He contends that the problem will only be exacerbated by the development of an African biofuel industry."
    • "His chief complaint is that while some marginal lands there can be converted to growing biofuels without highly significant negative effects, the potential profitability of biofuels will inevitably lead to massive land conversion and consequent releases of carbon dioxide."[12]
  • UK scientists launch scathing criticism of EU biofuel targets, 2 June 2011 by The Ecologist: "A global 'land grab' and increased loss of forests and other natural ecosystems is being driven by European targets for more transport fuel to come from biofuels, say a group of prominent UK scientists."
    • "The biofuels target was originally designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but in a letter sent to the transport minister Philip Hammond, and seen by the Ecologist, 19 prominent scientists from across the UK say crop-based biofuels will actually 'substantially increase emissions'."
    • "According to the scientists, in a rush to promote biofues both the UK and EU had failed to take account of two factors - the high-use of nitrogen fertilisers and land-use change brought about by the increasing demand for land to grow biofuel crops instead of food."
    • "'The additional demand for grains, oilseeds and sugars brought about by increased biofuel production will indirectly bring about the conversion of land currently under forest or other natural ecosystem into agricultural land, with the concomitant release into the atmosphere of carbon stored in trees and soil,' says the letter."[13]
  • Gauge agreed for biofuel effects on world, 24 May 2011 by the Financial Times: "Official measures for gauging the effect of bio-energy on food prices and the environment have been agreed by the world’s leading economies in a move that could undermine support for some forms of biofuel production."
    • "The move by the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), a Rome-based group backed by governments and international organisations, is a response to concerns that the rapid growth of biofuels and other forms of bio-energy is causing global hunger and environmental damage."
    • "The measures include assessments of the effects on food prices, greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, for biofuels such as ethanol and biomass such as woodchips used for power generation."
    • "The indicators are voluntary, but Michela Morese, manager of the GBEP’s secretariat, said there was an expectation that 'each and every developed country should be producing these measures'."[14]
    • Read the document, "GBEP Sustainability Indicators" (PDF file)
  • World's largest beef company signs Amazon rainforest pact, 29 April 2011 by Mongabay.com: "The world's largest meat processor has agreed to stop buying beef from ranches associated with slave labor and illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, according to the public prosecutor's office in the state of Acre. The deal absolves JBS-Friboi from 2 billion reals ($1.3 billion) in potential fines and paves the way for the firm to continue selling meat to companies concerned about their environmental reputation."
    • "Under the terms of the deal, JBS agreed to stop buying cattle from areas embargoed by environmental inspection agencies and lands classified as conservation units or indigenous territories, unless the management plans of those areas allow for livestock. Cattle production often occurs illegally in forests zoned for conservation or indigenous use and squatters are used as proxies to grab the land. JBS will also not buy cattle from ranches that have been convicted of labor abuses, including slave labor."
    • "The deal could help curtail deforestation for cattle production — which accounts for the bulk of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon — but its effectiveness still hinges on local governance, where corruption remains a problem."[16]
  • Wanted by EPA: Scientists for controversial climate mission, 26 April 2011 by The Hill: "The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking experts to help unwrap a wonky but politically charged question: How to measure the carbon footprint of using biomass for energy."
    • "EPA in January backed off applying greenhouse gas permitting rules to power plants and other facilities that use plant matter to make energy."
    • "EPA said it would use the three-year delay to improve methods for accounting for the carbon footprint of using various types of forest and other plant materials. On Wednesday, the agency is slated to publish a request for nominations to serve on a panel of EPA’s Science Advisory Board that will weigh the matter."
    • "A key question is how to track carbon released from land-use changes related to harvesting plant matter."[17]
  • High Prices Sow Seeds of Erosion, 12 April 2011 by New York Times: "Long in decline, erosion is once again rearing as a threat because of an aggressive push to plant on more land, changing weather patterns and inadequate enforcement of protections, scientists and environmentalists say."
    • "Erosion can do major damage to water quality, silting streams and lakes and dumping fertilizers and pesticides into the water supply. Fertilizer runoff is responsible for a vast 'dead zone,' an oxygen-depleted region where little or no sea life can exist, in the Gulf of Mexico. And because it washes away rich topsoil, erosion can threaten crop yields. Significant gains were made in combating erosion in the 1980s and early 1990s, as the federal government began to require that farmers receiving agricultural subsidies carry out individually tailored soil conservation plans."
    • "...[G]overnment biofuels policies that have increased the demand for corn have encouraged farmers to plant more."
    • "More than anything else this year, farmers are making decisions based on how they can best take advantage of corn and soybean prices, which have soared in recent months."[18]
  • Impacts of Biofuel Targets on Land Use and Food Supply, 6 April 2011 by Journalist Resource: "The increased global production of biofuels such as ethanol has become a subject of controversy, as land formerly dedicated to the growing of food crops is repurposed to meet energy needs. Each year, more crops such as sugar, palm oil, corn and cassava are diverted for these purposes."
    • "A paper by the World Bank, 'The Impacts of Biofuel Targets on Land-Use Change and Food Supply,' uses land-allocation information from the biofuels production sectors to determine the levels of competition between biofuels and food industries for agricultural commodities. The authors model the potential effects of increased biofuels production to meet current national targets."
    • "The paper’s findings include:
      • Expanding global biofuels production to meet current national biofuels targets would generally reduce global GDP between 0.02% and 0.06%, with the national GDP impacts varying across countries.
      • Significant Expansion in biofuels production would necessitate substantial land re-allocation, resulting in as much a 5% decreases in forest and pasture lands.
      • The expansion of biofuels would likely cause a 1% reduction in global food supply.
      • The magnitude of the impact on food costs is not as large as perceived earlier — sugar, corn and oil seeds would experience 1% to 8% price increases by 2020 — but increases would be significant in developing countries such as India and those in Sub-Saharan Africa."[19]
  • Boeing Releases Study On Jatropha Sustainable For Aviation Fuel, 3 April 2011 by AvStop.com: "Boeing released research conducted by Yale University's School of Environmental Studies showing significant potential for sustainable aviation fuel based on jatropha-curcas, an oil-producing, non-edible plant."
    • "The study shows that, if cultivated properly, jatropha can deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits in Latin America and greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60 percent when compared to petroleum-based jet fuel."
    • "A key study finding identifies prior land-use as the most important factor driving greenhouse gas benefits of a jatropha jet fuel. If Jatropha is planted on land previously covered in forest, shrubs or native grasses, benefits may disappear altogether. If the crop is planted on land that was already cleared or degraded, then additional carbon is stored and emissions reductions can exceed the 60 percent baseline."
    • "A second important finding is that early jatropha projects suffered from a lack of developed seed strains, which led to poor crop yields. Advancing jatropha seed technology through private and government research is critical and many Latin American countries are now engaged in supporting such technology development."[20]
  • Biofuels Policy May Kill 200,000 Per Year in the Third World, 28 March 2011 by PR Newswire: "U.S. and European policy to increase production of ethanol and other biofuels to displace fossil fuels is supposed to help human health by reducing 'global warming.' Instead it has added to the global burden of death and disease."
    • "Increased production of biofuels increases the price of food worldwide by diverting crops and cropland from feeding people to feeding motor vehicles. Higher food prices, in turn, condemn more people to chronic hunger and 'absolute poverty'".
    • "Research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries. Using statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Indur Goklany estimates that this would lead to at least 192,000 excess deaths per year, plus disease resulting in the loss of 6.7 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) per year."
    • "His analysis is published in the spring 2011 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons".[21]
    • Download the paper, Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? (PDF file).
  • Kenya biofuel project opposed, 23 March 2011 by AFP: "The Kenyan franchise of Italy's Nuove Iniziative Industriali is planning to farm 50,000 hectares of jatropha near Malindi, a seaside tourist resort in southern Kenya."
    • "'Taking into account the emissions produced throughout the production and consumption process... jatropha would emit between 2.5 and six times more greenhouse gases,' said ActionAid, Nature Kenya and the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds."
    • "The groups said the project is driven by commercial interests in Europe where the European Union has set a target to produce 10 percent of transport energy from biofuels by 2020."
    • "The United Nations Environment Programme said in 2009 that jatropha can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions if grown on degraded land, but can also be carbon intensive if its farming entails land use changes."[22]
  • Indian bio-fuel project to generate 25,000 jobs in Ghana, 8 March 2011 by Sify.com: "An Indian company has launched a clean energy project in Ghana that will help power over 100,000 homes and generate over 25,000 jobs in the west African country."
    • "Abellon CleanEnergy Limited intends to produce solid bio-fuels for export as well as set up energy plantations, says Pragnesh Mishra, the company's representative in Ghana."
    • "Officials of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Accra said the project was an initiative of the Business Call to Action (BCtA), a worldwide initiative to support the private sector in its efforts to fight poverty."
    • "But as Abellon prepares to take off, it looks like the company would have to contend with complaints by ActionAid Ghana that biofuel companies were grabbing lands from farmers all over the country."[24]
  • New FAO study shows integrated food and energy crops work for poor farmers, 17 February 2011 by Food and Agriculture Organization: "Producing food and energy side-by-side may offer one of the best formulas for boosting countries' food and energy security while simultaneously reducing poverty, according to a new FAO report."
    • "'Farming systems that combine food and energy crops present numerous benefits to poor rural communities,' said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources."
    • "'With these integrated systems farmers can save money because they don't have to buy costly fossil fuel, nor chemical fertilizer if they use the slurry from biogas production. They can then use the savings to buy necessary inputs to increase agricultural productivity, such as seeds adapted to changing climatic conditions — an important factor given that a significant increase in food production in the next decades will have to be carried out under conditions of climate change.'"
    • "Integrating food and energy production can also be an effective approach to mitigating climate change, especially emissions stemming from land use change."[25]
    • "To see the full report, go to Making Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) Work for People and Climate - An Overview(PDF File)"
  • Jatropha vs Moringa as food vs fuel, 16 February 2011 by Teatro Naturale International: "Previously heralded as a wonder plant, Jatropha grows in a number of climatic zones in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world."
    • "The uses of Jatropha have undeniable value, but more recently the crop was found less robust than first thought, due to the link with rising hunger and non-edible industrial biofuels."
    • "Jatropha supposedly grows on marginal land. In reality marginal land produces only marginal yields, so Jatropha is increasingly being grown on fertile agricultural land, competing directly with food crops for space."
    • "The tree Moringa oleifera has surfaced as a higher recovery and quality oil than other crops; it has no direct competition with food crops and can be used as a source of both biofuel and food."
    • "Moringa is a rapidly growing and drought resistant tree of which all parts are edible and can be used for oil, fibre, medicine and water purification. The tree grows in semi-arid tropical and sub-tropical areas and even wasteland without ample rainfall or additions of fertiliser."
    • "With Moringa bridging the gap between food and fuel, finance and investment firms are picking Moringa as an opportunity to provide rewarding returns in the investment market."[26]
  • Laws needed to guide biofuels development, 9 February 2011 by Business Daily Africa: "We have recently seen debates on a proposed large-scale foreign investment for 'jatropha' biodiesel crop in the Tana Delta area. The debate is an indication that we need national policies to guide biofuel development and also large-scale leasing of community lands by foreign enterprises."
    • "Over the last few years, many countries have been reassessing their strategies on biofuels especially where biofuels developments are in direct competition with national food self sufficiency and where they interfere with existing primary forests."
    • "The draft policy and strategy for biodiesel in Kenya centers mainly around rural communities primarily in semi-arid areas, where locally grown diesel crops (jatropha, croton, castor etc) would provide affordable and cleaner alternative rural energy for lighting and heating using locally customised equipment."
    • "With renewed focus on food crops in marginal areas, it is highly unlikely that the government will wish to emphasise promotion of biodiesel crops like jatropha in the same areas."[28]
  • Agave a Potential Bioenergy Crop for Biofuel Feedstock, 29 January 2011 by InfoGreenGlobal.com: "An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy evaluates the potential of Agave as a sustainable biofuel feedstock."
    • "Scientists found that in 14 independent studies, the yields of two Agave species greatly exceeded the yields of other biofuel feedstocks, such as corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat."
    • "According to bioenergy analyst, Sarah Davis, 'We need bioenergy crops that have a low risk of unintended land use change. Biomass from Agave can be harvested as a co-product of tequila production without additional land demands. Also, abandoned Agave plantations in Mexico and Africa that previously supported the natural fiber market could be reclaimed as bioenergy cropland.'"
    • "Agave is not only an exciting new bioenergy crop, but its economically and environmentally sustainable production could prove to successfully stimulate economies in Africa, Australia, and Mexico, if political and legislative challenges are overcome."[29]
  • Global biofuel land area estimated, 10 January 2011 by UPI.com: "University of Illinois researchers, using detailed land analysis, identified land around the globe available to produce grass crops for biofuels with minimal impact on agriculture or the environment."
    • "The Illinois study focused on marginal land for biofuel crops."
    • In their computer modeling, the researchers ruled out current crop land, pasture land, and forests."
    • "Researchers said an estimated land area of 2.7 million acres was available globally, an area that would produce 26 to 56 percent of the world's current liquid fuel consumption."[30]
  • IEA Bioenergy Releases Report on Bioenergy and Land Use Change, January 2011 by International Institute for Sustainable Development: "International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Bioenergy Task has published a report for policy makers titled 'Bioenergy, Land Use Change and Climate Change Mitigation,' which addresses how the climate change mitigation from the use of bioenergy can be influenced by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from land-use change."
    • "It discusses ways to avoid the need to include land use within emissions calculations by using of post-consumer organic residues and by-products from the agricultural and forest industries as bioenergy feedstock."
    • "The report further provides that the use of second generation technologies, as well as marginal or degraded lands, can mitigate climate-related effects of land use change."[31]
    • To read the report, go to Bioenergy, Land Use Change and Climate Change Mitigation

2010

  • New Wikileaks show biofuel food impacts were underestimated, 14 December 2010 by Kenneth Richter of Friends of the Earth UK: "I found out today that biofuels and GM crops now have their very own Wikileak."
    • "The secret cables reveal some yet more evidence about US attempts to push GM crops onto Africa. The cables also contain notes from an international meeting called by Gordon Brown on biofuels and the food crises in 2008."
    • "In that meeting Joachim Von Braun, Director General of the [International] Food Policy Institute Research (IFPRI) suggested a moratorium on maize for biofuels. Their modelling showed it would immediately slash maize prices by 20 per cent and wheat prices by 10 per cent, with further reductions because it would discourage speculation."
    • "But this idea was dismissed by other participants. Cargill's Ruth Rawling predicted that wheat prices would come down quite quickly without the moratorium. The Overseas Development Institute estimated that prices would fall back from their 2008 peak to roughly what they had been in the early 1990s."
    • "How wrong they were."
    • "Wheat has now risen in price by nearly two-thirds in the past six months. Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer acknowledges: 'The world is losing arable land at a rate of about 40,000 square miles a year. That is land being used for biofuel production, while climate change is eroding away topsoil.'"
    • "As a result the FAO now predicts another major global food crisis for 2011."[32]
  • Review Highlights Knowledge Gaps Surrounding Biofuels and Land Use Change, 9 December 2010 by PRNewswire: "The development of biofuels has increased exponentially over the past decade, and will continue to do so as many countries seek to move away from dependence on fossil fuels. However, increasing use of biofuels raises serious questions about changing land use – and policymakers have found it hard to keep pace with the issues involved."
    • "A new paper, Biofuels and Land Use Change: A Science and Policy Review, prepared by science and agriculture organization CABI and Hart Energy Consulting, reviews key research that has been conducted on the subject and analyses where the gaps in knowledge lie."
    • "'The switch away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives will have unforeseen consequences, especially for highly populated resource-poor countries,' said Janny Vos, Business Development Manager of CABI. 'At present the role of biofuels in this process is unclear. We hope that this review goes some way towards identifying the questions that need to be asked about land use change, and the areas in which we need further research.'"[33]
  • Researchers Debate Whether Biofuels Are Truly Greener Than Fossil Fuels, 21 November 2010 by Loren Grush: "The ETC Group, an international organization supporting sustainability and conservation, has just published its newest report, an 84-page document that presents a lengthy criticism of "the new bioeconomy." In it, principal author Jim Thomas argues that using biofuels for energy and resources isn't green -- in fact, he says, in certain ways they can be more harmful to the environment than coal."
    • "But other scientists say the biofuel economy is complex, and they note that it's hard to lump absolutely everything labeled biomass together."
    • "'One needs to recognize that all biofuels are not the same. The current generation is based on corn in the U.S., based on wheat and rapeseed in Europe,' Dr. Madhu Khanna, a professor of agriculture at the University of Illinois, told FoxNews.com."
    • "But even among the first generation, there is also sugarcane, which is a much cleaner fuel, and Brazil has a lot of available land for sugarcane production. You're able to expand without coming into conflict with food production. So you don't hear the same criticism necessarily about sugarcane."
    • "Thomas is adamant that land use will become a massive issue for the biomass industry. "This isn't a switch, it's a massive grab on land," he said. "This movement to a plant-based, or so-called green economy, will throw a lot of people off their land in the developing world."[35]
  • Biofuel worse for climate than fossil fuel - study, 7 November 2010 by Reuters: "European plans to promote biofuels will drive farmers to convert 69,000 square km of wild land into fields and plantations, depriving the poor of food and accelerating climate change, a report warned on Monday."
    • "As a result, the extra biofuels that Europe will use over the next decade will generate between 81 and 167 percent more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, says the report."
    • "Nine environmental groups reached the conclusion after analysing official data on the European Union's goal of getting 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020."
    • "But the European Commission's energy team, which originally formulated the goal, countered that the bulk of the land needed would be found by recultivating abandoned farmland in Europe and Asia, minimising the impact."
    • "The debate centres on a new concept known as "indirect land-use change."
    • "In essence, that means that if you take a field of grain and switch the crop to biofuel, somebody, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing tonnes of grain are grown elsewhere."
    • "The report was compiled by ActionAid, Birdlife International, ClientEarth, European Environment Bureau, FERN, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, Wetlands International."[36]
  • The only thing ‘green’ about NASCAR’s switch to corn ethanol is the cash, 29 October 2010 by Donald Carr: "In a move that USA Today says "could be regarded as economically motivated as well as environmentally aware," NASCAR will adopt an ethanol blend of fuel beginning with the 2011 Daytona 500."
    • "This bit of news was welcomed heartily by the corn ethanol lobby, which is facing the prospect of the ethanol tax credit subsidy expiring at the end of the year as well as consumer confusion at fueling stations across the country, as ethanol blends increase only for specific model-year vehicles."
    • "Here at the Environmental Working Group, we are certain that using corn ethanol as an alternative to gasoline is hardly a sustainable solution to our energy needs. We know that between 2005 and 2009, U.S. taxpayers spent $17 billion to subsidize corn ethanol blends in gasoline, an outlay that produced a paltry reduction in overall oil consumption equal to a 1.1 mile-per-gallon increase in fleetwide fuel economy."
    • "We're sure that corn ethanol production pollutes fresh-water sources in the Midwest. We know that there are serious concerns about ethanol plants and their impact on the environment. We know corn production for ethanol expands the dead zone in the Gulf. We also know it has led to obliteration of wildlife habitat."
  • Bioenergy’s Carbon Neutrality Dismissed by Coalition of NGOs, 20 October 2010 by the Energy Collective: "A coalition of environmental organizations has warned that bioenergy is far from being carbon neutral and that related carbon accounting systems currently in place are deceptive."
    • "According to Ecosystems Climate Alliance, an alliance of NGOs committed to 'keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere', zero-emission bioenergy is a myth. It blames the loopholes in LULUCF’s (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) accounting rules for the misconception."
    • "ECA says" that nations "with renewable energy targets allow biomass burners to stay out of emissions accounting, backed by the 'deceptive assumption that prior sequestration is sufficient to neutralize the problem', and give them generous financial incentives for generating 'green energy'. This way they act as serious competition for real renewables like wind and solar, which have much higher unit cost of production."[38]
Quoted from Bioenergy choices could dramatically change Midwest bird diversity: "In a 2010 article published in PNAS, Claudio Gratton and Tim Meehan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison calculated the impact on bird biodiversity of planting millions of acres of marginal land with biofuel feedstock. Left: Brown shows areas with species declines of up to 50 percent on marginal land planted with corn for biofuels. Right: Blue shows species increases of up to 200 percent if marginal lands are planted with diverse grasslands as biofuel feedstocks. Graphic: courtesy Claudio Gratton and Tim Meehan"
  • Bioenergy choices could dramatically change Midwest bird diversity, 8 October 2010 by David Tenenbaum: "Ambitious plans to expand acreage of bioenergy crops could have a major impact on birds in the Upper Midwest, according to a study published today (Oct. 4) in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)"
    • "The study compared two approaches to bioenergy feedstocks: monocultures of annuals, such as corn, or perennial cultures of prairie plants and grasses."
    • "The computer model that Meehan and Gratton developed showed that planting almost 21 million acres of perennial crops for bioenergy could increase bird biodiversity by 25 percent to 100 percent in some locales. The increase would be especially high in places like central Illinois and Iowa, where row crops are now dominant."
    • "Land-use decisions are typically made based on a single factor such as crop productivity or profitability, Gratton says, but in fact, changing how land is used usually has multiple impacts. As a result, he says, 'People are starting to think about bundles of effects, on water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, or on beneficial insects that need certain habitats to survive.'"[39]
  • World Bank report: demand for biofuels and animal feed is causing land grabs, 8 September 2010 by Friends of The Earth: "On the launch of a new World Bank report today (8 September 2010) in which the Bank explicitly identifies biofuels as one of the driving forces of land grabs in Africa and acknowledges its detrimental impact on local livelihoods, Friends of the Earth renews its call on rich countries to drop their biofuels targets and invest in planet-friendly farming."
    • "Mariann Bassey, African food and agriculture coordinator for Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said: 'The World Bank is backing the practice of nations selling vast agricultural lands to foreign investors, despite evidence that the expansion of industrial farming is trashing rainforests, increasing emissions, and pushing up global food prices.'"
    • "Last week Friends of the Earth released new research showing that the scale of land grabbing in Africa for biofuel production was underestimated and out of control...Even more land will be required for biofuels if the European Union is to reach its target of obtaining 10 per cent of transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020, it says."[40]
  • Land grabbing for biofuels hits Ghana, other African countries – Report, 30 August 2010 by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi: "There appears to be a gradual but ominous attempt to turn Africa into the production centre of some selected food crops and non-food crops for the production of biofuels to feed industry and vehicles in Europe."
    • "According to [a recent report by the environmental group, Friends of the Earth International], a third of the land sold or acquired in Africa, some five million hectares is intended for fuel crops."
    • "The report profiles land-grab cases that have happened in 11 African countries, most of which is being used or intended to be used to grow biofuel crops like Jatropha and palm oil."
    • "The report indicated further that concerns about energy supply appear to be a key driver behind the demand for agrofuel crops – with the EU aiming for 10% of transport fuel to come from “renewable” sources by 2010. These EU targets have established a clear market – which given land prices and the lack of available land within the EU will inevitably be met by imports."[41]
  • Biofuels Don't Threaten Food Security - Study, 30 August 2010 by Catherine Riungu: "'Crops can be produced for bioenergy on a significant scale in West, East and Southern Africa without affecting food production or natural habitats,' said the joint report by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Imperial College London, and Camco International."
    • "'If approached with the proper policies and processes and with the inclusion of all the various stakeholders, bioenergy is not only compatible with food production; it can greatly benefit agriculture in Africa,' said Rocio Diaz-Chavez, the report's lead author and research fellow at Imperial College, London."
    • 'Bioenergy production can bring investments in land, infrastructure and human resources that could help unlock Africa's idle potential and positively increase food production,' she added."
    • "Among the report's findings is that there is enough land to significantly increase the cultivation of crops such as sugarcane, sorghum, and jatropha for biofuels without diminishing food production."[42]
  • New CBO Report Examines Biofuels Tax Incentives, 16 July 2010 by Mackinnon Lawrence: "CBO releases report this week assessing biofuel incentives. Study finds that biofuel subsidies, costs associated with reducing petroleum use and GHG emissions vary by fuel."
    • "First, after making adjustments for the different energy contents of the various biofuels and the petroleum fuel used to produce them, the report finds that producers of ethanol made from corn receive 73 cents to provide an amount of biofuel with the energy equivalent to that in one gallon of gasoline. On a similar basis, producers of cellulosic ethanol receive $1.62, and producers of biodiesel receive $1.08."
    • "Second, the report finds reducing petroleum use costs taxpayers anywhere from $1.78 – 3.00 per one gallon of gasoline, again, depending on the type of fuel."
    • "Third, the costs to taxpayers of reducing greenhouse gas emissions varies from $275 per metric ton of CO2e for cellulosic, $300 per metric ton for CO2e for biodiesel, and about $750 per metric ton of CO2e for ethanol . NOTE: the CBO estimates do not reflect any emissions associated with land use change (direct or indirect)."
    • "Domestic Fuel reports this week that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) asserts the report provides no comparison to other technologies or types of biofuels against the destruction that goes hand in hand with fossil fuel production."[43]
  • Klobuchar bill: trojan horse for bad biofuels, 14 July 2010, Nathanael Greene’s Blog/NRDC: "It should come as no surprise that the first copy of the full text of Sen Klobuchar's energy bill was found on a corn ethanol industry association website; the bill reads like the industry's wish list."
    • "Here are some of laundry list of bad biofuel provisions:
  • "5 year extension of the corn ethanol tax credit (which mostly enriches oil companies such as BP)."
  • "Legislating away the science of lifecycle GHG accounting for ethanol. Using lots of land to make ethanol instead of food means that food production moves to new land and that leads to deforestation."[44]
Sketch of an apparatus for testing biofuel potential of various agricultural wastes, created by the RPI spring 2010 biomass capstone group. Image from The New York Times blog article A New Approach to Biofuel in Africa
  • A New Approach to Biofuel in Africa, 12 July 2010 by Ron Eglash: "The biofuel concept: If you just burn plant materials, you put out a lot of bad pollutants. But if you heat the materials in a container without oxygen (“pyrolysis”), you leave most of the carbon as “biochar,” which makes an excellent soil additive (in fact Amazon Indians built up rich soils over hundreds of years using biochar). The gas that is given off by pyrolysis can be processed into clean-burning fuel."
    • "All of which sounds great, but skeptics point out that Africa is a prime target for biofuel land grabs, which destroy small farms and forest preserves. Hence the importance of using agricultural residues like corn cobs, and researching the impact."[45]
  • NGOs Say EU Fuelling Hunger By Grabbing Land For Biofuels , 29 June 2010 by Eurasia Review: "Western development and environmental groups warned Tuesday that EU biofuels targets are leading to uncontrollable land grabbing from poor communities in Africa, pushing more people into hunger."
    • "A day before EU member states submit their renewable energy plans to the EU, NGOs Action Aid and Friends of the Earth Europe called on European leaders to halt the expansion of biofuels."
    • "Adrian Bebb, from the Friends of the Earth Europe said, 'huge tracts of land are being snatched across the developing world for European biofuels.'"[47]
  • Cars and People Compete for Grain, 1 June 2010 by Earth Policy Institute: "At a time when excessive pressures on the earth’s land and water resources are of growing concern, there is a massive new demand emerging for cropland to produce fuel for cars — one that threatens world food security."
    • "Historically the food and energy economies were separate, but now with the massive U.S. capacity to convert grain into ethanol, that is changing....If the fuel value of grain exceeds its food value, the market will simply move the commodity into the energy economy."
    • "For every additional acre planted to corn to produce fuel, an acre of land must be cleared for cropping elsewhere. But there is little new land to be brought under the plow unless it comes from clearing tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Congo basins and in Indonesia or from clearing land in the Brazilian cerrado."[49]
  • Friends of the Earth Sues, Petitions EPA re Failure to Properly Regulate Biofuels, 25 May 2010 by Friends of the Earth: "The Clean Air Task Force and Friends of the Earth filed today a lawsuit to the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the U.S. Court of Appeals and petitioned the EPA to reconsider its assumption regarding land conversion."
    • "The legal challenge results from the EPA using optimistic projections about emissions from biofuel production in 2022, rather than current data regarding emissions from biofuel production, to finalize lifecycle greenhouse emissions assessments. Using this flawed method, the EPA determined that all biofuels meet 2007 emissions standards, despite a growing body of research that indicate some biofuels result in worse emissions than conventional gasoline."[50]
  • Weed to Wonder Fuel? Jatropha Draws Biofuel Investors - and Questions, 13 April 2010 by SolveClimate.com: "In the world of biofuels, the pattern is familiar: Concerns grow over one crop’s impacts or overhyped potential, and another then appears to take its place with promises of planet-saving prowess."
    • "The latest savior is jatropha, a drought-resistant and hardy plant that supposedly can deliver high energy yields on marginal land and eliminate concerns about food competing with fuel for farmland."
    • "As of 2008, 242 jatropha biofuel projects covered 2.2 million acres; those numbers are likely much higher now....The Global Exchange for Social Investment predicted in its 2008 report that 32 million acres would be in production by 2015."
    • "Achieving [estimated] yields [of 200 gallons of oil per acre per year] on a large scale, though, will most likely require better than 'marginal' lands and better than primitive farming practices."
    • "Also, research into jatropha’s potential as a greenhouse gas emissions saver has yet to be fully explored. The major sticking point that arose with corn ethanol, sugarcane and other feedstocks is the concept of indirect land use changes and other elements of total lifecycle emissions that reduce the overall benefits".[52]
  • Biodiesel lobby: EU understates emissions from oil, 18 March 2010 by Reuters: "[B]iodiesel producers argue the EU's reference values for emissions from diesel and petrol are set too low. That's because they fail to take account of the rising use of unconventional fossil fuels such as Canadian tar sands and extra heavy oil."
    • "Emissions from unconventional oil are up to two-and-a-half times higher than ordinary crude, the [European Biodiesel Board] said, as more energy is used to extract it."
    • "Under the EU's renewable energy directive, biofuels must deliver emissions savings of at least 35 percent compared to fossil-based fuels to count toward the bloc's target of sourcing 10 percent of road transport fuels from renewables in 2020."
    • On the other hand environmental group activists like "Adrian Bebb, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth [argue that], 'All the evidence suggests that Europe's demand for biofuels is causing untold deforestation, increased food prices, land conflicts and greenhouse gas emissions.'"
Change in Corn Plantings as Percent of County Area, 2004-2007 in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region.

2009

  • The Other Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis in Global Land Use, 5 October 2009 by Yale Environment 360: "Our use of land, particularly for agriculture, is absolutely essential to the success of the human race. We depend on agriculture to supply us with food, feed, fiber, and, increasingly, biofuels. Without a highly efficient, productive, and resilient agricultural system, our society would collapse almost overnight."
    • "[L]and use is also one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Of the three most important man-made greenhouse gasses — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — land use and agricultural practices, including tropical deforestation, emit 30 percent of the total. That’s more than the emissions from all the world’s passenger cars, trucks, trains and planes, or the emissions from all electricity generation or manufacturing. Compared to any other human activity, land use and agriculture are the greatest emitters of greenhouse gasses. The vast majority comes from deforestation, methane emissions from animals and rice fields, and nitrous oxide emissions from heavily fertilized fields. Yet, for some reason, agriculture has been largely able to avoid the attention of emissions reductions policies."[59]
  • New paper by Tim Searchinger: Evaluating Biofuels: The Consequences of Using Land to Make Fuel (PDF file), published by the German Marshall Fund of the United States - 2009.
    • "If not used for biofuels, land would typically already be growing plants that are removing carbon from the atmosphere."
    • "Many controllable factors could in theory change the world land use situation for good or bad, but if those factors are independent of biofuels, they neither make biofuels a better strategy nor a worse one."
    • "To the extent biofuel critics have blamed these rises in crop price for increased retail food prices in the United States and Europe, they have probably exaggerated. Crop prices are a small fraction of the retail food prices paid in grocery stores, and an even smaller fraction in restaurants. But the impact on the poor in developing countries is large, particularly on the roughly one billion people who live on $1 per day or less and who are likely already chronically malnourished, and the three billion who live on less than $2 per day."
  • Land Use Offers Valuable Solutions for Protecting the Climate, 7 July 2009 by SolveClimate: "It’s well-known that the trick to reducing net carbon emissions relies on not emitting so much of the stuff and finding a way to get it back where it belongs....That’s where the land comes in. Thirty percent of greenhouse gases come from 'the land-use sector.'...So let's talk farming. Let's talk trees. And let's talk land degradation."
    • "That’s the argumentative thread running through the [Worldwatch] Institute's newest report, Mitigating Climate Change through Food and Land Use, by Sara J. Scherr and Sajal Sthapit."
    • "The first step is simply realizing the magnitude of agricultural or forestry-based contribution to emissions and, potentially, to absorption."
    • "Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases also seep into the atmosphere as the secondary effects of land-use changes. Exposed soil erodes more easily, and oxidizes more readily, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while nitrogen fertilizers cause soil to emit nitrous oxide, an enormously potent greenhouse gas. The gist is that land-use change is a big problem—close to a third of the problem."[63]
  • (Obama) Administration addressing ethanol, climate change, 5 May 2009 by Associated Press: "President Barack Obama directed more loan guarantees and economic stimulus money for biofuels research and told the Agriculture Department to find ways to preserve biofuel industry jobs."
    • "Obama said an interagency group also would explore ways to get automakers to produce more cars that run on ethanol and to find ways to make available more ethanol fueling stations."
    • "The reassurances to the ethanol industry came as the Environmental Protection Agency made public its initial analysis on what impact the massive expansion of future ethanol use could have on climate change. Rejecting industry and agricultural interests' arguments, it said its rules...will take into account increased greenhouse gas emissions as more people plant ethanol crops at the expense of forests and other vegetation and land use is influenced worldwide by the demand for biofuels."
    • "The ethanol industry and farm-state members of Congress had wanted only a comparison of direct emissions".[64]
  • Agrofuels in the Americas: An Irrational Strategy, 28 April 2009 by Organic Consumers Association: "The Food First report, Agrofuels in the Americas (PDF file), looks back over the last several years of the ethanol/biodiesel boom. The authors conclude that using crop land to produce fuel is an irrational strategy – one that negatively affects climate change, the environment, food security, and rural development worldwide."
    • "According to a study in the report by Guatemalan researcher Dr. Laura Hurtado, the agrofuels boom has already led to 'considerable loss in the amount of land available for food cultivation' in Guatemala;...small family farmers are being pushed off their land, agribusiness firms are expanding colonial-style plantations, and the human right to food of thousands of indigenous farmers has been systematically violated."
    • "Similar evidence from Brazilian activist Maria Louisa Mendonça finds that 80% of Brazil's carbon dioxide emissions come from deforestation in the Amazon – largely driven by the expansion of soy monocultures....Mendonça debunks the myth that agrofuels are good for rural development in Brazil, citing numerous workers rights violations, industry concentration, health risks to workers, and land evictions."[65]
    • Download the Food First report, Agrofuels in the Americas (PDF file).
  • Biofuels Boom Could Fuel Rainforest Destruction, Researcher Warns, 14 February 2009 by Science Daily: "Farmers across the tropics might raze forests to plant biofuel crops, according to new research by Holly Gibbs, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment."
    • "Gibbs' predictions are based on her new study, in which she analyzed detailed satellite images collected between 1980 and 2000. The study is the first to do such a detailed characterization of the pathways of agricultural expansion throughout the entire tropical region."
    • However, Gibbs said that "planting biofuel croplands on degraded land -- land that has been previously cultivated but is now providing very low productivity due to salinity, soil erosion, nutrient leaching, etc. -- could have an overall positive environmental impact".
    • "Both Brazil and Indonesia contain significant areas of degraded land -- in Brazil, the total area may be as large as California -- that could be replanted with crops, thereby decreasing the burden on forested land. 'But this is challenging without new policies or economic incentives to encourage establishing crops on these lands,' Gibbs said."
    • "'This is a major concern for the global environment,' Gibbs said. 'As we look toward biofuels to help reduce climate change we must consider the rainforests and savannas that may lie in the pathway of expanding biofuel cropland.'"[67]
  • Biofuel carbon footprint not as big as feared, Michigan State University research says, 15 January 2009 by MSU News: "Publications ranging from the journal Science to Time magazine have blasted biofuels for significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, calling into question the environmental benefits of making fuel from plant material. But a new analysis by Michigan State University scientists says these dire predictions are based on a set of assumptions that may not be correct."
    • "'Our analysis shows that crop management is a key factor in estimating greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use change associated with biofuels,' [MSU University Professor Bruce] Dale said. 'Sustainable management practices, such as no-till farming and planting cover crops, can reduce the time it takes for biofuels to overcome the carbon debt to three years for grassland conversion and 14 years for temperate zone forest conversion.'" [68]

2008

  • Biofuel producers warn EU over "unjustifiably complex" sustainability rules, 7 November 2008 by BusinessGreen: "Eight developing countries have written to the EU warning they will complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it passes proposed legislation designed to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels by restricting the types of fuels the bloc imports."
    • "The EU is considering legislation that is intended to ban the purchase of biofuels from energy crop plantations that are believed to harm the environment and lead to food shortages by displacing land used for food crops and contributing to rainforest deforestation."
    • "[E]ight countries – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Malaysia – have written to the EU to protest against the proposals" in a letter that "claims that the new rules would 'impose unjustifiably complex requirements on producers' and argues that environmental criteria 'relating to land-use change will impinge disproportionately on developing countries'."[69]
  • Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis, 4 July 2008 in The Guardian: "Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian."
    • The report "argues that production of biofuels has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher."[70]
  • U.S. May Free Up More Land for Corn Crops, 21 June 2008 in the New York Times. "Signs are growing that the government may allow farmers to plant crops on millions of acres of conservation land, while a chorus of voices is also pleading with Washington to cut requirements for ethanol production."..."Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and one of Capitol Hill’s main voices on farm policy, on Friday urged the Agriculture Department to release tens of thousands of farmers from contracts under which they had promised to set aside huge tracts as natural habitat."

Publications/Resources

  • Greenhouse Gas Accounting: Lifecycle Analysis of Biofuels and Land Use Change by John A. Miranowski for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 23 April 2012. "By definition, an LCA [lifecycle analysis] is a comprehensive accounting of all the energy inputs into the process and outputs out of the process, including GHG and other emissions. Ideally, sustainability should be incorporated into the system. Others have argued that increased GHG emissions in the biofuel system from global LUC [land use change] should be included in the LCA for biofuel as well."
    • "The high level of uncertainty created by model incompatibility and by aggregate agricultural models not capable of capturing necessary refinements in LUC and agricultural management practices has led to two positions on including indirect LUC in LCA models. First, we know that indirect LUC and associated GHG emissions are not zero, so we are doing a disservice to society by not including them in LCA estimates, even though the “confidence interval” is extremely wide (Hertel et al., 2010). Second, we do not have the tools to obtain a reasonably accurate estimate of the GHG emission effects of indirect LUC, and we are doing a disservice by trying to measure the unmeasurable (Babcock, 2009b)."
    • "Although there are a number of qualifiers, the same LCA model should be used to derive GHG

emission estimates when comparing different feedstocks or different fuels since cross-model comparisons simply highlight model differences (i.e., it is important to create a stable market environment when comparing fuels). Yet, in order to provide a complete understanding of the sensitivity of LCA results and policy impacts to model assumptions, it is important to consider alternative LCA models (and assumptions)." [[71]

  • Assessing the Land Use Change Consequences of European Biofuel Policies by David Laborde of the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) for the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission, October 2011: This report follows up on the 2010 European Commission report “Global Trade and Environmental Impact Study of the EU Biofuels Mandate”.
    • "This new study contains several important changes compared to the previous report. It uses an updated version of the global computable general equilibrium model (CGE), MIRAGE-Biof, as well as a revised scenario describing the EU mandate based on the National Renewable Energy Action Plans of the 27 member states. In addition, a stronger focus has been placed on specific feedstock Land Use Change (LUC) computation and the uncertainties surrounding these values. Systematic sensitivity analysis is used to measure the potential range of LUC coefficients." [72]
  • Measuring the Indirect Land-Use Change Associated With Increased Biofuel Feedstock Production (PDF) by USDA Economic Research Service and the Office of the Chief Economist, February 2011. "This report summarizes the current state of knowledge of the drivers of land-use change and describes the analytic methods used to estimate the impact of biofuel feedstock production on land use.The larger the impact of domestic biofuels feedstock production on commodity prices and the availability of exports, the larger the international land-use effects are likely to be. The amount of pressure placed on land internationally will depend in part on how much of the land needed for biofuel production is met through an expansion of agricultural land in the United States."
Chart from the 2007a IPCC climate change assessment report shows the contribution by sector to total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004, in terms of CO2 equivalent. Heat trapping GHGs result in global temperature changes that effect our climate systems. The label "Forestry" in this breakdown includes global deforestation. This form of land use change, combined with agriculture, accounts for nearly 1/3 of total annual GHG emissions. Source (PDF File)
  • UN-IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change And Forestry, by Robert T. Watson (Chief Scientist and Director of Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development at The World Bank and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Ian R. Noble (Professor of Global Change Research in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University and Chief Executive Officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting at the Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University), Bert Bolin (former Professor of Meteorology at the University of Stockholm and Director of the International Institute for Meteorology, and former Scientific Director at the European Space Research Organisation. Dr. Bolin served as Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 1988-1997) N.H. Ravindranath (Principal Research Scientist at the Centre for ASTRA and Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science), David J. Verardo (Environmental Scientist for the IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit, Washington DC, USA) and David J. Dokken (Project Administrator for the IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit, Washington DC, USA).

References



Land use edit
Dry lands | Land tenure | Land use change (LUC case studies) | Land Use Impacts of Fossil Fuels | ILUC Portal

Indirect land use impacts (Searchinger-Wang debate)
Land use change factors: Agriculture (Livestock, Crops - Rice) | Deforestation | Mining

Agriculture edit
Issues: Ecosystem displacement | Food versus fuel debate | Intensification of agriculture | Land use change
Soil: Soil amendments (Agrichar/Biochar, Terra preta) - Soil carbon sequestration
US - Department of Agriculture | Farm Bill
Crops/Plants (Feedstocks) | Drylands | Livestock
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Agriculture (Land use) | Climate change | Economics (Green economy/Green jobs)
Environment | Social (Poverty) | Trade

Controversies: Food versus fuel | Net energy | Carbon debt


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