Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action

Keith L. Kline, Siwa Msangi, Virginia H. Dale, Jeremy Woods, Glaucia M. Souza, Patricia Osseweijer, Joy S. Clancy, Jorge A. Hilbert, Francis X. Johnson, Patrick C. McDonnell, Harriet K. Mugera
14 june 2016

Understanding the complex interactions among food security, bioenergy sustainability, and resource management requires a focus on specific contextual problems and opportunities. The United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals place a high priority on food and energy security; bioenergy plays an important role in achieving both goals. Effective food security programs begin by clearly defining the problem and asking, ‘What can be done to assist people at high risk?’ Simplistic global analyses, headlines, and cartoons that blame biofuels for food insecurity may reflect good intentions but mislead the public and policymakers because they obscure the main drivers of local food insecurity and ignore opportunities for bioenergy to contribute to solutions. Applying sustainability guidelines to bioenergy will help achieve near- and long-term goals to eradicate hunger. Priorities for achieving successful synergies between bioenergy and food security include the following: (1) clarifying communications with clear and consistent terms, (2) recognizing that food and bioenergy need not compete for land and, instead, should be integrated to improve resource management, (3) investing in technology, rural extension, and innovations to build capacity and infrastructure, (4) promoting stable prices that incentivize local production, (5) adopting flex crops that can provide food along with other products and services to society, and (6) engaging stakeholders to identify and assess specific opportunities for biofuels to improve food security. Systematic monitoring and analysis to support adaptive management and continual improvement are essential elements to build synergies and help society equitably meet growing demands for both food and energy.



GHG emissions

Greenhouse gas impact of marginal fossil fuel use

By: Arno van den Bos, Carlo Hamelinck
Ecofys 2014
12 November 2014

“Based on our assessment that the marginal oil displaced by biofuels is a combination of oil sands, kerogen oil (oil shale) and light tight oil, we estimated that the marginal greenhouse gas emissions avoided by the introduction of biofuel are approximately 115 gCO 2eq /MJ of energy delivered by biofuels. This is 31.7 g/MJ above the average fossil fuel emissions as represented by the fossil comparator used in the European directives on Renewable Energy and on Fuel Quality. This difference is in the same order of magnitude as the ILUC factors currently proposed for biofuels. The upper boundary, should biofuels displace an average mix of all unconventional fuels by 2030, is higher at 137 gCO 2 eq/MJ. The ‘marginal’ approach clearly shows that the true benefit of introducing biofuels islarger than is currently reflected through the use of the fossil comparator.”

The contribution of biofuels in transport sustainability post-2020

Dr. Leonidas Ntziachristos, Dr. Giorgos Mellios, Dr. Petros Katsis

EMISIA SA report March 18, 2014


Biofuels have played a significant role in improving the sustainability of road transport and have significantly contributed so that EU reaches its environmental targets. The new 2030 framework 

on  climate  and  energy  does  not  specify  mandatory  targets  for  the  share  of  biofuels  in  the transport  energy  mix. This is expected to affect the sustainability of transport. This report provides different scenarios on what the new framework and the loose targets may entail in terms of transport sustainability and CO2 emissions. 

EOA contribution to GLOBIUM study on ILUC


Estimate of ILUC impact of EU rapeseed biodiesel based on historic data

Warwick Lywood Lywood Consulting Ltd
22 November 2013

This study estimates the ILUC impacts of EU rapeseed biodiesel based on historic data. The approach taken for this study is that ILUC impacts should be determined for biofuel that is currently being sold, rather than attempt to predict what the impacts might be in 2020. This is the same approach as is used for the calculation of direct biofuel GHG emissions. This means that the ILUC calculation can be based on historic data, which enables far more certainty in the ILUC calculation than models that try to predict the biofuel status in 2020.

The land use changes of European biodiesel: sensitivity to crop yield evolutions

Le changement d’affectation des sols induit par la consommation européenne de biodiesel : une analyse de sensibilité aux évolutions des rendements agricoles

Alexandre GOHIN
June 2013

The EU public policy regarding biodiesel is highly debated. Available estimates of the indirect land use changes (ILUC) conclude that this policy is inefficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This paper shows that the crop yield evolutions use to determine these estimates are significantly lower than the reality and the current projections. This difference is directly related to biased choices in the calibration of behavioural parameters. Using the GTAP-BIO framework, this paper shows that a consistent calibration of these parameters leads to a strong reduction (by around 80% in the long run) of ILUC emissions.

Indirect land use change (iLUC) within life cycle assessment (LCA) – scientific robustness and consistency with international standards

PROF. DR. Matthias Finkbeiner
29 March 2013

While the science behind ILUC is still in its infancy, life cycle assessment (LCA) has matured over a few decades and is nowadays accepted internationally by all stakeholders as “…best framework for assessing the potential environmental impacts of products currently available (EU 2003)”. The international standards ISO 14040/44 represent the constitution of LCA. The core question of this study is, if and how ILUC can be included in the LCA or carbon footprints (CF) of biofuels in a scientifically robust and consistent way. While the currently published mainstream trend seems to demand the integration of ILUC factors into LCA and CF assessments and thereafter in regulations, this study seeks proof whether this is supported by the sober, critical and neutral perspective of science.

Uncertainties about the GHG Emissions Saving of Rapeseed Biodiesel

Gernot Pehnelt and Christoph Vietze

This working paper analyses the GHG emissions savings potential of rapeseed biodiesel through a life cycle assessment and using the same basic methodology and background data contained in RED. In most of the scenarios, rapeseed biodiesel does not reach the GHG emissions saving values contained in RED. Neither the RED typical value for rapeseed oil (45%) nor even the lower default value (38%) can be supported by the analysis. Therefore, the GHG emissions saving values of rapeseed biodiesel stated by the EU are more than questionable.

An Analysis of iLUC and Biofuels - Regional quantification of climate-relevant land use change and options for combating it

Dr. Uwe Lahl  - October 2010

The analysis of the political options for combating iLUC shows that a regional approach would have a much more effective controlling effect. A meaningful controlling effect can only arise from regulations that are regionally oriented, i.e. at nation state level. Something else that must be achieved is that countries (society and government) that can provide evidence that they have both successfully and sustainably fought LUC should also be rewarded (and vice-versa).

Generally, the iLUC problem can, however, only be solved at the root if the regulations for combating dLUC that currently exist for biofuels in Europe are also extended globally to the other agricultural sectors and global land use change is prevented overall.   Bi- or multi-lateral agreements on biofuels can be reached between the EU and key agricultural countries as an interim solution. Specifically, adding an option to the RE Directive is recommended: the EU Commission should be given the ability to calculate and define a regional iLUC factor for a nation state given defined political conditions.

These conditions include, in particular, a documented refusal of the country over the long run to enter into a bilateral agreement with the EU to fight against LUC or iLUC. Overall, a blend of different activities is recommended that combines a medium- to long-term international solution that gets to the root of the problem with short-term interim solutions through "bilateral agreements" supported by a regional iLUC model.