Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lange M (2011). Energy Policy, 39, 5, 2373-2385

Among this study's conclusions were: "We found that the conversion of natural land for bioenergy production almost never meets the minimum emissions reduction target of 35% and in most cases even leads to much higher emissions than the use of fossil fuels...


"We have so far not come across a convincing proposal to implement indirect LUC into the LUC assessment of biofuels because of the underlying complex global land use dynamics...


"The rising world population with an increasingly milk and meat intensive – and thus land intensive – diet will likely require an expansion of agricultural areas at the expense of other land uses. Erb et al. (2009) show that the bioenergy potential, the development of agricultural production technologies and the shift to a more vegetarian diet are closely interrelated with respect to their demand for fertile land. Thus, the land use change following an increasing biofuel feedstock production would be smaller the less area were needed for food and feed production, which in turn depend on diets and the advance in agricultural productivity."


(Hat tip: Food Climate Research Network)


Lange M (2011). The GHG balance of biofuels taking into account land use change, Energy Policy, 39, 5, 2373-2385


Energy Policy
Volume 39, Issue 5, May 2011, Pages 2373-2385

doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.01.057 | How to Cite or Link Using DOI
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.
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The GHG balance of biofuels taking into account land use changestar, open
Mareike LangeCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author
a Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Hindenburgufer 66, 24105 Kiel, Germany
Received 18 September 2010; 
accepted 26 January 2011. 
Available online 21 March 2011.


The contribution of biofuels to the saving of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has recently been questioned because of emissions resulting from land use change (LUC) for bioenergy feedstock production. We investigate how the inclusion of the carbon effect of LUC into the carbon accounting framework, as scheduled by the European Commission, impacts on land use choices for an expanding biofuel feedstock production. We first illustrate the change in the carbon balances of various biofuels, using methodology and data from the IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. It becomes apparent that the conversion of natural land, apart from grassy savannahs, impedes meeting the EU's 35% minimum emissions reduction target for biofuels. We show that the current accounting method mainly promotes biofuel feedstock production on former cropland, thus increasing the competition between food and fuel production on the currently available cropland area. We further discuss whether it is profitable to use degraded land for commercial bioenergy production as requested by the European Commission to avoid undesirable LUC and conclude that the current regulation provides little incentive to use such land. The exclusive consideration of LUC for bioenergy production minimizes direct LUC at the expense of increasing indirect LUC.

Research highlights

► We analyzed the EC's current sustainability regulations for biofuels with respect to land use change (LUC). ► The current regulatory system taking LUCs into account minimizes direct LUC at the cost of increasing indirect LUC. ► We propose subjecting all agricultural activities to a carbon accounting system. ► In the short run, the indirect LUC risk can be reduced by promoting high energy productive crops and biofuel feedstock production on degraded land.
Keywords: Land use change emissions; Bioenergy; European policy


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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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