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Land and water requirements of biofuel and implications for food supply and the environment in China

  • Yang, Hong
  • Zhou, Yuan
  • Liu, Junguo
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    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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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 37 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 5 (May)
    Pages: 1876-1885

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:37:y:2009:i:5:p:1876-1885
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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    1. Hong Yang & Alexander Zehnder, 2001. "China's regional water scarcity and implications for grain supply and trade," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 33(1), pages 79-95, January.
    2. Cleveland, Cutler J., 2005. "Net energy from the extraction of oil and gas in the United States," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 769-782.
    3. Peters, Jörg & Thielmann, Sascha, 2008. "Promoting Biofuels: Implications for Developing Countries," Ruhr Economic Papers 38, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI), Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    4. Bennett, Michael T., 2008. "China's sloping land conversion program: Institutional innovation or business as usual?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 699-711, May.
    5. A. Hoekstra & A. Chapagain, 2007. "Water footprints of nations: Water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern," Water Resources Management, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 35-48, January.
    6. Russi, Daniela, 2008. "An integrated assessment of a large-scale biodiesel production in Italy: Killing several birds with one stone?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 1169-1180, March.
    7. Shapouri, Hosein & Duffield, James A. & Wang, Michael Q., 2002. "The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update," Agricultural Economics Reports 34075, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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