Crop Biotech Update

International Energy Agency’s Recent Statement on Biofuels

May 16, 2008

The International Energy Agency (IEA) plays the role of energy policy advisor to 27 member countries on issues related to providing “reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens”. The IEA website posted a recent statement on the agency’s views on the impacts of biofuels on food/energy security, economic development and reduction of greenhouse gases, as well as the importance of sustainable biofuels production.

Among the highlights of the statement are: (1) Biofuels production using “first generation feedstocks” (such as grains for ethanol and oil seeds for biodiesel) may compete with food, feed and fiber production, although “currently less than 2% of global agricultural cropland is used for biofuels production”. (2) Biofuels produced from “second generation feedstocks” (lignocellulosic biomass, such as woody biomass and vegetative grasses) have “considerable promise for eventually providing more sustainable types of biofuels; however, support for research and development is important in order to lower production cost. (3) Ethanol production from sugarcane produced in tropical or subtropical countries like Brazil, Southern Africa, and India is a good example of properly managed production of sustainable biofuels (“excellent characteristics in terms of economics, carbon dioxide reduction and low land use requirements”). (4) Biofuels are becoming increasingly important in meeting the global demand for transport fuel;  in 2008, an estimated 55% of the growth in non-OPEC oil supply can be attributed to biofuels.