Media & News

News Releases
World Resources Institute Wrong About Biofuels Impact on Land Use and the Environment

January 31, 2015


TORONTO — Today, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) criticized a new report by World Resources Institute (WRI) for its false data on the environmental and land use impacts of biofuels. The report titled, 'Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land', makes several hypothetical predictions about biofuels but fails to substantiate its claim that bioenergy is competing for food crops and land. The report, authored by Timothy Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich, claims that biofuels have increased competition for land and food but fails to show how. Several major studies, which have looked at this issue using actual historical data not hypothetical projections, have shown that increased global demand for agricultural crops has been mostly met by increased productivity, such as increased production on existed agricultural land, and not through additional land use.[1][2] This means that, based on historical trends, increased use of crops for biofuels will not cause significant additional land use. Despite referring to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) throughout the report, the authors ignore recent comments from the FAO Director-General Mr. da Silva who praised biofuels for their social, agricultural and environmental benefits. The FAO chief said that biofuels are part of a necessary paradigm shift in global agriculture that will support increased food production. Global ethanol production utilizes only 2% of grain supplies, not enough to compete with food production or significantly alter food prices[3]. When biofuels are produced so too are food co-products such as animal feed which benefit food security, as recognised by the UN FAO[4], a benefit which solar panels do not have. At the same time, the significant impacts of global food waste on food supplies – 50% of global food production is wasted[5] – are completely ignored by this report. Addressing this food waste, and its unsustainable consequences, is where real action is needed to ensure the world has enough food. Additionally, the positive environmental impact of biofuels are very well established. According to F.O. Licht, global ethanol production was forecasted to reach 90.38 billion litres in 2014 and its use worldwide would reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million tonnes globally, equal to removing 21 million cars off the road annually. "It is well understood that biofuels production drives much needed investment in agriculture and that biofuels are a key part of the food security, agriculture and rural development solution," said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting biofuel friendly policies internationally. Alliance members represent over 65% of the global biofuels production from 44 countries. Through the development of new technologies and best practices, Alliance members are committed to producing renewable fuels with the smallest possible footprint.

[1] Using Recent Land Use Changes to Validate Land Use Change Models, Iowa University (2014) [2] Biofuel Cropping Systems: Carbon, Land and Food, Langeveld et al (2014) [3] World Bank have said that almost 66% of food price increases are a result of oil prices. Long-Term Driver of Food Prices, World Bank (2013) [4] Biofuels co-products as livestock feed, UN FAO (2013) [5] Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not, Institute of Mechanical Engineers (2013)