The effect of bioenergy expansion: Food, energy, and environment

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 32, April 2014, Pages 559-578.
J. Popp, Z. Lakner, M. Harangi-Rákos, M. Fári.

 

Debrecen University, Faculty of Applied Economics and Rural Development, Institute of Economic Theory, 4032 Debrecen, Böszörményi Street 138, Hungary and

Budapest Corvinus University, Faculty of Food Sciences, Department of Food Economics, Budapest, Hungary and

Debrecen University, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Environmental Management, Institute of Animal Science, Biotechnology and Nature Conservation, Hungary

 

Abstract

The increasing prices and environmental impacts of fossil fuels have made the production of biofuels to reach unprecedented volumes over the last 15 years. Given the increasing land requirement for biofuel production, the assessment of the impacts that extensive biofuel production may cause to food supply and to the environment has considerable importance. Agriculture faces some major inter-connected challenges in delivering food security at a time of increasing pressures from population growth, changing consumption patterns and dietary preferences, and post-harvest losses. At the same time, there are growing opportunities and demands for the use of biomass to provide additional renewables, energy for heat, power and fuel, pharmaceuticals and green chemical feedstocks. Biomass from cellulosic bioenergy crops is expected to play a substantial role in future energy systems. However, the worldwide potential of bioenergy is limited, because all land is multi-functional and land is also needed for food, feed, timber, and fiber production, and for nature conservation and climate protection. Furthermore, the potential of bioenergy for climate change mitigation remains unclear due to large uncertainties about future agricultural yield improvements and land availability for biomass plantations. Large-scale cultivation of dedicated biomass is likely to affect bioenergy potentials, global food prices and water scarcity. Therefore, integrated policies for energy, land use and water management are needed. As biomass contains all the elements found in fossil resources, albeit in different combinations, therefore present and developing technologies can lead to a future based on renewable, sustainable and low carbon economies. This article presents risks to food and energy security estimates of bioenergy potential with regard to biofuel production, and the challenges of the environmental impact.

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