Agrofuels and Bioenergy

Throughout the past decade, many governments regarded the replacement of petroleum with renewable resources as a “green” and “silver bullet” solution for reducing our dependence on fossil fuel energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It was also hoped that, at the same time, renewable resources would open up new markets for agriculture.
In 2008, world food prices exploded. Among other factors, this has been attributed to the global biofuels boom.
Since then, worldwide disillusionment has set in: The large-scale expansion of biofuel pro-duction is putting huge demands on agricultural land and water - potentially resulting in large negative social and environmental problems, such as rising food prices, deforestation and the depletion of water resources.>>more

Ethanol and Biodiesel

Blending targets and subsidy measures, which are mainly supported by major economies, such as the EU and the US, has fuelled a boom in the cultivation of renewable resources. Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia are exporting sugar cane and palm oil for agrofuel production on a grand scale. Africa’s unused agricultural land is often considered the “promised land” for the production of renewable fuels.

Facts & Figures

The cultivation of plants for biofuel production is rapidly increasing. The production of biodiesel for example increased from 7.8 billion litres in 2006 to an estimated 28.5 billion litres in 2011. Over the same period, ethanol production rose from 58 to 113 billion litres.

The share of corn production used for fuel ethanol in the United States rose from 6.3% in 2000 to 35.4% in 2010.

Agrofuel production is playing a key role in the purchasing and leasing of large agricultural areas in developing and emerging countries. Around 23% of land deals listed by the Land Matrix are geared towards the cultivation of plants used for the production of agrofuels.

The European Union’s biofuel policy is threatening food security and increasing land grabbing in Africa. 66% of the land that has been grabbed in Africa, some 18.8 million hectares, is intended for biofuel production. Among the largest investors are companies from Europe.

The contribution of biofuel demand to the increase in grain prices from 2000 to 2007 is estimated to be 30 percent. The strongest impact was on maize prices, for which biofuels are estimated to account for 39 percent of price increases.

232 kilograms of corn is needed to produce 50 litres of bioethanol. In Mexico or Zambia, a child could live on that amount of corn for a year.

60% of the primary energy supply in sub-Saharan African comes from biomass, and close to 90% of the population uses biomass for cooking and heating.


Civil Society


Videos: Biofuels & Bioenergy

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  • UNEP Bioenergy productionUNEP Bioenergy production
  • UNEP Biofuel Production MapUNEP Biofuel Production Map
  • UNEP Biofuel versus fossil fuelUNEP Biofuel versus fossil fuel
  • UNEP Oil Prices comparedUNEP Oil Prices compared
  • UNEP Biodiversity loss 2006-2050UNEP Biodiversity loss 2006-2050
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Unterstützer von biovision Verlag der Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. Demeter Greenpeace Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung Eine Welt Stiftung Die Grünen, Europäische Freie Allianz Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst NABU - Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. Misereor Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand
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