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Mandating Food Insecurity: The Global Impacts of Rising Biofuel Mandates and Targets

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  • Timothy A. Wise
  • Emily Cole

Abstract

Expanding demand for biofuels, fed significantly by government policies mandating rising levels of consumption in transportation fuel, has been strongly implicated in food price increases and food price volatility most recently seen in 2008 and 2011-2012. First-generation biofuels, made from agricultural crops, divert food directly to fuel markets and divert land, water and other food-producing resources from their current or potential uses for production of feed for animals and food for human consumption. A key policy driver of biofuel consumption is government mandates to increase or maintain rates or levels of biofuel blends in transportation fuel, the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and the E.U. Renewable Energy Directive being the most prominent cases. In this paper we assess the spread of such mandates and targets, finding that at least 64 countries now have such policies. We estimate the consumption increases implied by full implementation of such mandates in the seven countries/regions with the highest biofuel consumption, suggesting a 43% increase in first-generation biofuel consumption in 2025 over current levels. We compare this to even higher estimates from international agencies. We assess the likelihood of implementation in key countries and regions, which suggests that with reform, particularly in OECD countries, consumption growth could be slowed. We conclude with policy recommendations to reduce the mandate-driven expansion of first-generation biofuels and mitigate their negative social and environmental impacts.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy A. Wise & Emily Cole, 2015. "Mandating Food Insecurity: The Global Impacts of Rising Biofuel Mandates and Targets," GDAE Working Papers 15-01, GDAE, Tufts University.
  • Handle: RePEc:dae:daepap:15-01
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