Variable demand as an avenue to sustainable first generation biofuels

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1 Variable demand as an avenue to sustainable first generation biofuels Sustainable First and Second Generation Bioethanol for Europe: Opportunities for People, Planet and Profit functionality & sustainability. International conference, 26 September 2017, Brussels Wolter Elbersen

2 Message Vary the production of first generation biofuels (ethanol / biodiesel) according to feedstock availability / price! This will increase food security and This will help reduce iluc (indirect Land Use Change) 2

3 Second generation= lignocellulose = wood, crop and processing residues Advantages: Plentiful as residue (many residues underutilised) Large crop potential on released and abandoned land / forest Low cost Issues Costly to convert into products Mobilisation takes time More energy needed to convert than for first generation feedstocks Purification for chemical conversion difficult 3

4 First generation: sugar, starch, oils Advantages: Relatively easy to convert Readily available feedstock GHG balance positive (in the chain) > 50% better than fossil equivalent Issues Variable availability and price Competition with food Indirect land use change risk 4

5 Released land can be used for lignocellulose production We estimate that surplus arable land available for non-food uses will increase to 20.5 million ha by 2020 and will almost double, to 26.3 million ha by 2030 = up to 250 million ton DM in EU 27 Krasuska et al The sites that are economically marginal for annual food crops production might be economically efficiently used for perennial non-food crops production = lignocellulose In the near future biomass for electricity and heat will be released and become available for fuels and chemicals 5

6 Effect of first generation biomass demand for fuels and chemicals 1. Higher prices food/fuel issues, food insecurity for low income people and/or 2. More land is converted into crops = iluc land use change, GHG emissions and reduced biodiversity and/or 3. Increased production per hectare / intensification that is what we want! 6

7 Can we increase the yield of food crops? YES Bridge the yield gap! 7

8 Average farm yields tend to plateau when they reach 75 85% of yield potential Yield potential Yp changes slowly due to new varieties with higher potential or due to climate change Yield Ya increases require investments in: Farm technologies Planting material Fertilization Irrigation Education Van Ittersum et al 2013

9 Yield gap of rain fed maize absolute in tons per hectare 9 Ref.

10 Yield gap of rain fed maize relative % of maximum rainfed yield. Ref. 10

11 Yield gap of rain fed wheat, ton per hectare compared to maximum rainfed yield. Ref.

12 Yield gap of rain fed wheat relative % of maximum rainfed yield 12

13 Especially in Europe and America yield gap can be used for non-food (also in the longer term) In Africa and Asia yield gap will have to be used for food production (in the longer term) 13

14 Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action Low real prices for food limit motivation for investments in technology or yield improvement Price increases make food staples less accessible Sudden decreases in food prices undermine producers livelihoods and household incomes in rural areas More predictable food staple prices that create incentives for local investment in food production are important to improving food security Ref. Kline at al

15 How to source first generation feedstocks? Farmers need stable prices to invest in yield and efficiency and thus increase yields. Lack of investment leads to reduction in soil productivity Vary the demand of food grade feedstocks for biofuels according to over or under supply Reduce biofuel production when feedstock are scarce / price is high Make extra biofuel when prices are low See the supply of feedstock for fuels and chemicals as a reserve in case of food shortages Biofuels add to investments in agriculture 15

16 Is varying the biofuel demand new? No! Brazil: Ethanol blending is varied in gasoline varied (22 / 29%) Colombia: low sugar cane yields led to lowering of mandatory ethanol blending in gasoline prevented higher sugar prices 16

17 Actions for industry and government: Certify all agri feedstocks for Food / Feed / Chemicals and Biofuels Keep feedstock supply for food / feed and chemicals stable by varying biofuel demand Make hybrid fossil / biobased chemical systems Switch to fossil when feedstocks are too expensive Make clear policies that reduce biofuel production when prices of feedstocks are high and increase biofuel production when prices are low But also implement policies that prevent deforestation and push higher agri-production by investing in research and technology development 17

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