biofuels and the sustainability challenge: a global

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  • A global assessment of sustainability issues, trends and policies for biofuels and relatedfeedstocks

    Biofuels and the sustainability challenge:

  • A global assessment of sustainability issues, trends and policies for biofuels and related feedstocks


    Aziz Elbehri Anna SegerstedtandPascal Liu


  • The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

    The views expressed in this information product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of FAO.

    ISBN 978-92-5-107414-5

    All rights reserved. FAO encourages reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product. Non-commercial uses will be authorized free of charge, upon request. Reproduction for resale or other commercial purposes, including educational purposes, may incur fees. Applications for permission to reproduce or disseminate FAO copyright materials, and all queries concerning rights and licences, should be addressed by e-mail to or to the Chief, Publishing Policy and Support Branch, Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy.

    FAO 2013

  • iii

    This report owes its genesis to the post food crisis of 2007-08, the ensuing debate over the impact of biofuels on global food security, and the rising concern over climate change and its close ties to sustainability. Moreover, the increasing debate over biofuel sustainability and the multiplicity of certification schemes that emerged over the last few years offered an opportunity for a global assessment with particular emphasis on trade, policy and food security.

    The report underwent several drafts before reaching its final form. It started as a background literature review to a project proposal on biofuel sustainability aimed at empirically testing the proposed sustainability principles and criteria in specific country cases. Anna Segersted provided the initial literature review under the supervision of the Senior author, while Pascal Liu guided the literature search on certification schemes. Supplemental literature reviews were carried out by Saurav Barat and Gavilan Ignacio to fill in remaining gaps.

    The end outcome, is a comprehensive study that attempted to integrate into a single report the major issues related to biofuel and related feedstock sustainability. The final draft was submitted for internal reviews and benefitted from comments from FAO colleagues from several departments including: Theodor Friedrich (FAO-AGP), Olivier Dubois (FAO-NRC), Kevin Fingerman (FAO-GBEP), and Merritt Cluff (FAO-EST). However, remaining errors are the sole responsibility of the authors.

    The authors acknowledge the support of David Hallam, Director of the Trade and Markets Division. Patricia Arquero, provided the needed administrative support, Massimo Iafrate prepared the statistical production and trade tables while Marion Triquet assisted with final cross checking the document for consistency. The report formatting and design was ably carried out by Rita Ashton and Jane Garrioch.


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    Table of contents

    Preface iiiList of acronyms and abbreviations xiMain conclusions xiiiExecutive summary 1General introduction 13

    chapter 1 CroPs for biofuels: eConomiC and TeChniCal assessmenT for susTainable ProduCTion and uTilizaTion 15

    1.1 sugarcrops 15

    1.1.1 Sugarcane 15

    1.2.2 Sweet Sorghum 171.2 starchy crops 22

    1.2.1 maize 22

    1.2.2 caSSava 251.3 biodeisel feedstocks 26

    1.3.1 rapeSeed 271.3.2 oilpalm 271.3.3 Soybean 321.3.4 Jatropha curcaS 34

    1.4 dedicated energy crops 36

    1.4.1 algae 37

    1.4.2 waSte 381.5 Gaseous biofuels 40

    1.5.1 anaerobic digeStion 40

    1.5.2 thermal gaSification 421.6 solid biofuels 431.7 short-rotation crops 44

    1.7.1 eucalyptuS 45

    1.7.2 poplar 461.8 overview of comparative efficiencies of different feedstocks 471.9 Conclusion 48

    chapter 2 biomass and biofuel susTainabiliTy: an overview of issues, meThods, and iniTiaTives 53

    2.1 definition of sustainable development 53

    2.2 economic sustainability of biomass 54

    2.2.1 profitability and efficiency 55

    2.2.2 economic equity 58

  • vi

    Biofuels and the sustainability challenge: A global assessment of sustainability issues, trends and policies for biofuels and related feedstocks

    2.2.3 competition with food 59

    2.2.4 trade competition 60

    2.2.5 economic SuStainability aSSeSSmentS 61

    Cost-benefits analyses (CBA) 61Full-cost pricing 62

    2.3 environmental sustainability of biomass-biofuels 63

    2.3.1 energy balance 63

    2.3.2 greenhouSe gaS and other air pollutantS 65

    2.3.3 life cycle aSSeSSmentS 66

    2.3.4 an example of life cycle analySiS: Sweet Sorghum for bioethanol - credit verSuS allocation method 69

    2.3.5 land uSe change (luc) 712.3.6 biodiverSity 722.3.7 water uSe for agriculture (bioenergy) and water footprint 742.3.8 land uSe and preServation of Soil productive capacity 792.3.9 local environmental impact aSSeSSment 802.3.10 integrated environmental aSSeSSment and reporting 81

    2.4 socio-institutional factors in biofuel sustainability 852.4.1 land ownerShip rightS 852.4.2 local StewardShip of common property reSourceS 912.4.3 labour/employment effectS 922.4.4 Social SuStainability aSSeSSment 94

    2.5 initiatives on bioenergy sustainability 942.5.1 national initiativeS 94

    The Netherlands 94United Kingdom 95Germany 97European Union 98United States 99Brazil 100Canada 101Malaysia 101Indonesia 101

    2.5.2 intergovernmental initiativeS 1022.5.3 private and multi-Stakeholder SuStainability initiativeS 103

    2.6 Conclusion 104

    chapter 3 a review of biofuel CerTifiCaTion sChemes and lessons for susTainabiliTy 113

    3.1 introduction 1133.2 examples and lessons from certification schemes 114

    3.2.1 foreStry 1143.2.2 agriculture 1153.2.3 biofuelS 1193.2.4 SuStainability ScorecardS (idb, world bank) 122

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    3.3 assessment of sustainability in biofuel feedstocks and implications for certification schemes 126

    3.3.1 Soybean-biodieSel: compliance coSt with baSel criteria in brazil 1263.3.2 coSt eStimation for SuStainable ethanol in brazil 1283.3.3 argentina: organic Sugar and SuStainability benefitS 1283.3.4 democratic republic of the congo: Short-rotation treeS (eucalyptuS) 1303.3.5 india: Jatropha-biodieSel and SuStainability 1313.3.6 ghana: Jatropha-bioSdieSel proSpectS and SuStainability 1323.3.7 palm oil-biodieSel: malaySia 1333.3.8 caSSava-ethanol: thailand 137

    3.4 Conformity assessment issues 1383.5 harmonization of certification schemes 1433.6 Conclusions: strengths and limitations of biofuel certification schemes 143

    RefeRences 149

    Annex 1: AgRonomic conditions foR selected feedstock 171

    Annex 2: selected life cycle AnAlysis foR biofuels 172

  • viii

    Biofuels and the sustainability challenge: A global assessment of sustainability issues, trends and policies for biofuels and related feedstocks

    1.1 Country case: Sugarcane ethanol - Brazil 181.2 Country case: Sweet sorghum ethanol - Mozambique 23 1.3 Country case: Cassava ethanol - Thailand 261.4 Country case: Oil palm biodiesel - Malaysia 291.5 Country case: Soybean biodiesel - Argentina 33 1.6 Country case: Jatropha biodiesel - Ghana 361.7 Turning waste into energy: Application of integrated food energy systems for small-scale farming in developing countries 412.1 European Union Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and its take on biodiversity 74 2.2 Soybean-biodiesel sustainability in La Pampa Province, Argentina 822.3 Soybean-biodiesel sustainability in Mato Grosso and Par, Brazil 842.4 Sugarcane-ethanol sustainability review for Brazil 862.5 Peruvian Amazon case - Importance of stakeholder engagement 923.1 Biofuel certification schemes: Are smallholders left behind? 123

    1.1 Global biodiesel production, 2006 271.2 Global pellets exports, 2006/07 431.3 Biofuel feedstocks, yields, lifespan and input intensity, 2006 482.1 Linkages between the Brazilian energy and sugar markets 552.2 Fossil energy balances for liquid biofuels 632.3 Life-cycle GHG balance of different conventional and advanced biofuels 662.4 Biofuel carbon debt allocation, annual carbon repayment rate (years) 672.5 Conflict zones: High potentials for biomass production vs. high biodiversity 732.6 Proportion of biofuels meeting sustainability standards 97

    list of boxes

    list of figures

  • ix

    list of tables

    1.1 Summary of bioenergy processes, biofuel types and feedstock sources 161.2 Input-output in cultivating oil palm and other crops 301.3 Soybean and soybean oil yields, by-products and prices 321.4 World Jatropha acreage in 2008 351.5 Biogas production in select countries (estimates) in 2006 401.6 World wood pellet production in 2006 431.7 World eucalyptus plantations, 2005 461.8 Trade in wood pulp, 2009 472.1 Cost of production of biofuels from selected feedstocks 582.2 Initiative