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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Land and the food–fuel competition: insights from modeling

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Ecological–economic model simulations of the world food system have been used to study the impacts of historic and future liquid transport biofuel expansion on agricultural markets and the environment. Almost half of global cropland increase between 2000 and 2008 (about 8 Mha or 0.5% of global cropland) can be attributed to biofuel expansion alone. The central ‘New Policies Scenario’ of the World Energy Outlook 2011 projects an increase of conventional crop‐based biofuel use from 60 Mtoe (2.5 EJ) in 2010 to annually 160 Mtoe (6.7 EJ) in 2035. Until 2020, the projected biofuel consumption provides no or little cumulative net greenhouse gas (GHG) savings as the time period is hardly sufficient to compensate for carbon losses due to over 10 Mha of additional land use conversion. By 2035, cumulative net GHG savings improve up to 2.8 Pg CO2 equivalent in a scenario with assumed higher agricultural productivity growth in developing countries. This scenario increases the developing region's competitive positions and avoids additional people at risk of hunger due to higher commodity prices caused by biofuel use. Available underutilized grassland and woodland may provide land resources suitable for nonfood energy crop production required for the second‐generation biofuel conversion pathways, while causing only limited impacts on food security and biodiversity. We estimate between 246 and 475 Mha of global grassland and woodland to be agronomically suitable for industrial‐scale lignocellulosic energy crop production, with achievable rain‐fed yields of at least 10 tons of dry matter per hectare, with good accessibility and relatively low ruminant livestock density. This article is categorized under: Bioenergy > Economics and Policy Bioenergy > Climate and Environment
Global utilization of cropland, by commodity group, 2008. ‘Seed/Waste’: Land used for seed production requirements and land equivalents for losses due to on farm waste; ‘Other use’ includes industrial crops (e.g., cotton, tobacco, natural rubber), and oil crops, cereals, and sugar crops for industrial products (e.g., soap, cosmetics, biofuel). (Created from author's calculations based on Ref 45.)
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Development and state of global biofuel production. (a) Expansion of biofuel production 2000–2010. (b) Ethanol and biodiesel production in 2010. [Figure 1a is based on data, with permission, from Ref 27. Copyright 2011, BP. Figure b is based on data, with permission, from Ref 28. Copyright 2011, REN21 (original data were converted from liters to Mtoe).]
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Potential rain‐fed yield of lignocellulosic feedstocks in current areas with dominantly grassland and woodland. Dominantly includes 5 min longitude/latitude grid‐cells with over 50% grassland and woodland. [Reproduced with permission from Ref 36. Copyright 2012, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).]
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Suitability of global grass/woodland areas for lignocellulosic feedstock production, by grass/woodland concentration. Suitability refers to achievable rain‐fed yields. VS: Very Suitable; S: Suitable; MS: Moderately suitable; mS: Marginally suitable; The share of grass‐ and woodland (GRWL) in 5 min latitude/longitude grid cells is used as proxy for GRWL concentration. Table shows a further characterization of the hatched blue area.
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Occurrence (%) of grass‐ and woodland. The map shows the share of grass/woodland in 5 min latitude/longitude grid cells (see text). [Reproduced with permission from Ref 36 Copyright 2012, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).]
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Cumulative net greenhouse gas savings of biofuel scenarios for 2020, 2035 and 2050. (Source: IIASA World Food System simulations, January 2012.)
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Additional cropland use in the biofuel scenarios by 2020 and 2035, relative to REF. [Source: IIASA World Food System simulations, January 2012. Reproduced with permission from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).]
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Regional distribution of crop‐based biofuel use in the biofuel scenarios WEO‐2011 and WEO‐2011‐hP Source: IIASA World Food System biofuel scenario based on World Energy Outlook 2012
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