Liquid Biofuels for Transport Prospects, risks and opportunities
- 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
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
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.
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
Good agricultural practices and increased yields can help
mitigate some of the negative
greenhouse gas effects.
in particular, may improve the greenhouse gas balance
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
appropriate policy measures are required to minimize possible
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
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
competitively and process them efficiently may be able to
develop an economically viable
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.