Estimates reduce amount of additional land available for biofuel production

Feb 27, 2013
Estimates reduce amount of additional land available for biofuel production
The availability of suitable land may limit production of biofuels in the years to come. Credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Amid efforts to expand production of biofuels, scientists are reporting new estimates that downgrade the amount of additional land available for growing fuel crops by almost 80 percent. Their report appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Steffen Fritz and colleagues explain that growing concern exists in the U.S. and the European Union on how production of biofuels will impact food security. This has led to a realization that increased production of biofuels must take place on so-called "marginal land," acreage not suitable for growing food crops, but capable of growing switch grass, Indian beech trees and Barbados nut trees. Concerned that previous estimates were targeting some areas where land is not marginal, the scientists did the calculations using data obtained through crowdsourcing, which were based on higher-resolution datasets.

They concluded that previous studies had overestimated the amount of arable land, had underestimated the amount of land already being cultivated and had not fully considered other competing uses for land other than farming. The revised estimates show that 140 million-2.6 billion acres of additional land could be cultivated for biofuel production. That compares with previous estimates of 800 million-3.5 billion acres. This study highlights the large uncertainties in estimating land availability and points out that such estimates should be used with caution.

Explore further: Tool kit for ocean health

More information: Downgrading Recent Estimates of Land Available for Biofuel Production, Environmental Science & Technology. pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es303141h

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Biofuels may damage health, researchers find

Feb 05, 2013

Concern is growing about finding alternatives to fossil fuels, but the negative impact of one of these—biofuels—may be greater than we first thought, say scientists.

Study estimates land available for biofuel crops

Jan 10, 2011

Using detailed land analysis, Illinois researchers have found that biofuel crops cultivated on available land could produce up to half of the world's current fuel consumption – without affecting food crops or pastureland.

Food vs. fuel: Is there surplus land for bioenergy?

Oct 18, 2012

An interdisciplinary team of 11 scientists from seven European countries and the USA have discussed the concept to utilize so called surplus land for the production of feedstock for bioenergy. They identified ...

Recommended for you

US proposes stricter ozone limits

2 hours ago

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Wednesday to strengthen emission regulations for ozone, a smog-causing pollutant blamed for respiratory ailments affecting millions of Americans.

Deforestation drops 18 percent in Brazil's Amazon

5 hours ago

Deforestation in the Amazon rain forest dropped 18 percent over the past 12 months, falling to the second-lowest level in a quarter century, Brazil's environment minister said Wednesday.

The unbelievable underworld and its impact on us all

6 hours ago

A new study has pulled together research into the most diverse place on earth to demonstrate how the organisms below-ground could hold the key to understanding how the worlds ecosystems function and how they ...

Toolkit for ocean health

9 hours ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 27, 2013
Anyone that would promote the use of arable land to produce fuel for combustion engines, while there are hungry people, is a thief and should be hung by his thumbs in the city center.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.