Between sustainability and development: bioenergy, land use, food security and lifecycle analysis
Introduction: bioenergy policies and markets Growing concerns about energy security and global warming have increased the search for low-carbon energy alternatives to fossil fuels that meet the needs for electricity, heating, and fuel. In many parts of the world, bioenergy has evolved as a readily available domestic energy source that can build on existing infrastructures. Although the bioenergy potential is large, harvesting biomass is demanding due to the comparatively low efficiency of photosynthesis, requiring large areas of land to collect and distribute bioenergy. Dedicated crops can contribute to a variety of energy uses, including electricity production through biomass incineration and refinement into biogas and bio fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Recent years have seen an unprecedented rise in demand for bio fuels, largely through public support rather than reliance on market forces (Scheffran 2009). A significant number of countries have set ambitious political goals for the substitution of fossil fuels by bio fuels in the transportation sector, attracting public and private investments to stimulate bio fuel production and use. Besides budgetary support measures, governments are applying blending or use mandates that require a minimum share or quantity of bio fuels in the transportation fuels market, or trade restriction measures, such as import tariffs, that in some cases protect less cost-efficient domestic bio fuel industries from lower-cost foreign competitors. In 2007, the global production of bio fuels amounted to 16.4 billion gallons (BG) per year, corresponding to 1.8 percent of total global transportation fuel consumption in energy terms (OECD 2008). The bio fuel share of domestic consumption was about 20 percent in Brazil, 3 percent in the United States and less than 2 percent in the European Union. With a production of 13.1 BG in 2007, fuel ethanol accounts for most of the world’s bio fuel, followed by biodiesel with 2.7 BG. Almost half of the ethanol is produced in the United States, 38 percent in Brazil, 4.3 percent in the European Union, and 3.7 percent in China. In 2008 globalethanol production increased to 17.3 BG of which 9 BG was produced in the United States, 6.5 BG in Brazil, 0.7 BG in Europe and 0.5 BG in China (RFA 2009).