Biofuels and their global influence on land availability for agriculture and nature

A first evaluation and a proposal for further fact-finding

At the request of Unilever International, CE Delft has carried out a pilot study on biomass-based transport fuels and their impact on global land use. Not only in the Netherlands and the EU but elsewhere, too, demand for biofuels has risen sharply in recent years, in response to (new) government policy rewarding use of these fuels or making it compulsory. It is anticipated that policies in this area will be further intensified in the years ahead, implying to a continuation of this trend. Production of these biofuels requires immense quantities of raw materials. At the moment these are the same agricultural crops as those used by the food industry, which has led to direct competition between biofuel companies and food producers. To meet this added demand for raw materials, moreover, the amount of land being cropped worldwide is being extended ever further, threatening biodiversity at both the regional and global scale. One way to reduce both competition with the food industry and impacts on nature and biodiversity is to opt for biofuels embodying high CO2 cuts per hectare. This will require innovation in both agriculture and biofuel technology, as detailed in this report along with several other conclusions.

Report

Authors CE

Geert Bergsma
Bettina Kampman

Delft, February 2007