Land and water requirements of biofuel and implications for food supply and the environment in China
The increasing thirst for energy to fuel its fast growing economy has made China keen to explore the potential of modern form of bioenergy, biofuel. This study investigates the land and water requirements of biofuel in China with reference to the government biofuel development plans for 2010 and 2020. The concept of land and water footprints of biofuel is applied for the investigation. The result shows that the current level of bioethanol production consumes 3.5-4% of total maize production of the country, reducing market availability of maize for other uses by about 6%. It is projected that depending on the types of feedstock, 5-10% of the total cultivated land in China would need to be devoted to meet the biofuel production target of 12 million metric tons for the year 2020. The associated water requirement would amount to 32-72km3 per year, approximately equivalent to the annual discharge of the Yellow River. The net contribution of biofuel to the national energy pool could be limited due to generally low net energy return of conventional feedstocks. The current biofuel development paths could pose significant impacts on China's food supply and trade, as well as the environment.
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