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Liquid Biofuels for Transport Prospects, risks and opportunities

7. Conclusions

  • 7.1 Do biofuels threaten food security?
  • 7.2 Can biofuels help promote agricultural development?
  • 7.3 Can biofuels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  • 7.4 Do biofuels threaten land, water and biodiversity?
  • 7.5 Can biofuels help achieve energy security?

7.1 Do biofuels threaten food security?

For many poor people in both urban and rural areas, higher food prices pose an immediate threat to their food security.

Although biofuels are only one cause of the recent high food prices, expanded biofuel production will tend to keep food prices high into the future.

The effects of high food prices on the poor can be mitigated through appropriately designed and targeted safety nets that support access to food such as direct food distribution, targeted food subsidies and cash transfers, or nutritional programmes including school feeding.

Price controls and export bans are often used to protect consumers from higher food prices but these measures may actually worsen the food security crisis Instead, it is important to allow rising prices to reach farmers to provide an incentive for increased production and as a consequence an increased supply. More...

7.2 Can biofuels help promote agricultural development?

In the longer run, higher food prices resulting from growing demand for biofuels present an opportunity for agricultural development

Providing market access to small farmers and marginalized groups such as women and minorities, will strongly improve the chances that agriculture can drive growth and poverty reduction.

Opportunities would also be expanded by the removal of subsidies and trade barriers that benefit producers in OECD countries at the expense of producers in developing countries. More...

7.3 Can biofuels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Some biofuels may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, this will depend on where and how the feedstocks are produced.

In many cases, greenhouse gas emissions from direct or indirect land-use change will partially offset and in some cases even exceed the greenhouse gas savings obtained by using biofuels for transport.

Good agricultural practices and increased yields can help mitigate some of the negative greenhouse gas effects. Second-generation biofuels, in particular, may improve the greenhouse gas balance significantly. More...

7.4 Do biofuels threaten land, water and biodiversity?

As for any form of agriculture, expanded biofuel production may threaten land and water resources as well as biodiversity, and appropriate policy measures are required to minimize possible negative effects.

The impacts depend on cultivation practices and whether new land is converted into cropland. The use of perennial plants that yield crops over several years on land of low potential represents an opportunity for sustainable biofuel production. More...

7.5 Can biofuels help achieve energy security?

First generation liquid biofuels made of starch or oil contained in agricultural crops can only make a limited contribution to global supply of transport fuels.

However, countries with abundant natural resources which can produce feedstocks competitively and process them efficiently may be able to develop an economically viable biofuel sector.

Second generation biofuels based on cellulosic feedstocks may expand the range of countries where biofuels could make a significant contribution to energy security. However, it is not clear when these technologies may become commercially viable. More...


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