Report on expert workshop on variable demand for biofuels – Variable demand as an avenue to sustainable first generation biofuels and biobased chemicals

Apr 2019

First generation biofuels and biobased chemicals are produced from feedstocks (oils, fats, sugars and starch) that are also used for food and feed. In many countries, public opinion and many experts think this is undesirable due to their negative impacts on food security, indirect land use change (iLUC), and biodiversity. It has been suggested that a variable demand for biofuels could mitigate these negative effects. This IEA Bioenergy Task 43 report presents the results of a one-day Expert Workshop on “Variable demand as an avenue to sustainable first generation biofuels and biobased chemicals” that was held 3 December 2018 in The Hague (NL).

Some conclusions:

  • Meeting food, feed, fibre, and fuel demand without negative iLUC effects will depend on our ability to increase yields on existing cropland. There needs to be improvement in land management. This offers potential for increasing soil organic carbon content and improving food security (intercropping).
  • 2nd generation biofuels (from lignocellulosic crops) would not necessarily improve food security, as it would not give the choice to switch to food if necessary. Furthermore, 1st gen biofuels bring more resilience to farmers as they have multiple markets for their agricultural products.
  • There are good examples of positive effects of biofuels for food security from Brazil (sugar cane), US (corn), South Africa (wheat), Mozambique (cassava) showing the shift from fuel to food according to availability and price of feedstock.