Agrofuels and Bioenergy

The IAASTD calculates that, even when using state of the art technology, two-thirds of the world’s agricultural land would be required for the cultivation of renewable resources equivalent to just 20% of the global crude oil consumption.
In any event, given the limited availability of water resources and land suitable for cultivation, biofuels are directly competing with food production. The production of agrofuels promotes industrial monocultures and enhances their negative impact on both rural structures and the environment. Current trends indicate that a large-scale expansion of pro­duction of 1st generation biofuels for transport will create huge demands on agricultural land and water - causing potentially large negative social and environmental effects, e.g., rising food prices, deforestation, depletion of water resources that may outweigh positive ef­fects (Global, p. 422).
In particular, the report warns against the expansion of renewable resource cultivation in ecologically valuable areas, as this could pose an additional threat to biodiversity (see also> Food Sovereignty & Agroecology).


Competition for soil and water

When biofuels are burnt, the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere is equivalent to the CO2 that was previously absorbed by the plant. The positive climatic effects of agrofuels, however, remain controversial as they require intensive energy input - thus counteracting the positive effects when compared to oil.
Depending on the plant species and location, emissions can even exceed those of oil, particularly if new land for agricultural production is generated through deforestation.
The so-called second generation biofuels are not produced from food crops. The cellulose of trees and shrubs is used instead. The IAASTD is cautious in its assessment of the technical feasibility and efficiency of this method, and warns against any hype with respect to its potential. The fundamental problem of competition for increasingly scarce soil and water resources remains here as well While biofuels may provide prospects for the development of new sources of energy from agriculture, there is the threat of converting natural forests and agricultural lands into monoculture plantations. Furthermore, there is the issue of corporate or community ownership of such initiatives. These developments may have implications for food security, biodiversity, sustainability and livelihoods. Establishing decentralized, locally-based, highly-efficient energy systems is one option to improve livelihoods and reduce carbon emissions. (East and South Asia and the Pacific Report, p. 64) (see also> adaptation to climate change).


Wood Biomass

Biofuels are only a small – although rapidly growing – part of bioenergy production. Worldwide, more than two billion people use wood for cooking and heating. Many traditional forms of combustion of wood and charcoal, crop residues and manure are inefficient and often hazardous to health. They are also threatening the already sparse tree populations, particularly in arid regions.
The IAASTD considers that optimising the traditional use of bioenergy presents one of the main challenges for the future. Local biogas plants could be used for generating electricity. Solar and wind energy plants could also make an important contribution – despite some potential technical problems, especially in the case of small plants (see also > Knowledge and science).


Civil Society


Videos: Biofuels & Bioenergy

To watch playlist click on image
To watch playlist click on image


  • 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
Share |


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
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version