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Impact of biofuels production on GHG emissions: What to address and how to approach them?


  • Cristina Sarasa
  • Virginie Doumax


In the last years, first-generation biofuels have been denounced as harmful in regards to their impacts on food crops prices, land use changes and ecological damages. As a consequence, recent regulations on biofuels require reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. However, capturing all emissions involved in both biofuels production and use is quite tricky. In addition, the inclusion of GHG emissions from land-use changes (LUC) into law and policy remains a subject of active discussion in the literature, and feeding an intense research (Panichelli and Gnansounou, 2015). In this context, governments are very hesitant about supporting public policies for biofuels. While waiting for the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive to be revised, the European Union (EU) Parliament has called on the September 11th 2013 for a 6% limitation of crop-based biofuels and proposed a 2.5% binding incorporation target for advanced biofuels by 2020. But on June 13th 2014, the EU energy ministers came to a quite different agreement. In the latter, the limitation of first-generation biofuels is raised to 7% and none compulsory objective is defined for advanced biofuels. Member states only have to encourage the transition towards second and third-generation biofuels, and to respect a minimal incorporation rate of 0.5% in road transports. Those lower ambitions result from the EU biofuels industry claims and their fears about long-term profitability. New negotiations are expected in 2015 to adopt a common text. But the current contradictory views between the EU Parliament and energy ministers make the outcome largely uncertain. In this context, the main purpose of this work is to understand how to give a new direction for biofuels supporting policies to promote them without hurting the environment and the wellbeing of people. To do it, we address two objectives simultaneously. First, we carry out an exhaustive study of the current situation of the biofuels industry in the European Union. With this study, we are interested in answering the following questions: Which are the impacts of the former incorporation targets of biofuels in different countries? In which stage are EU countries in the process of production and commercialization of both first-generation and advanced biofuels? This first part allows us to identify risks associated to support policies to biofuels and to outline the best strategies depending on the aims pursued. Second, we assess a revision of the key modelling choices for evaluating the impact of biofuels production and consumption. The direct and indirect impacts of biofuels consumption on the environment may notably be significant. Therefore, this second part studies the methodologies and techniques applied on biofuels through a revision of Input-Output models and Computable General Equilibrium models, focusing on the best approach to estimate LUC-GHG emissions as well. We provide guidelines to address the carbon emissions associated to biofuels, and particularly to report the LUC–GHG emissions. These insights may help deciders to define new support policies and modellers to choose the best approach to estimate the complex impacts of agricultural-based biofuel production. Keywords: Biofuels, GHG emissions, Land use changes, Modelling References Panichelli, L. and Gnansounou, E. (2015), « Impact of agricultural-based biofuel production on greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change: Key modelling choices », Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 42(2015) 344–360.

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  • Cristina Sarasa & Virginie Doumax, 2015. "Impact of biofuels production on GHG emissions: What to address and how to approach them?," EcoMod2015 8626, EcoMod.
  • Handle: RePEc:ekd:008007:8626

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    1. Doumax, Virginie & Philip, Jean-Marc & Sarasa, Cristina, 2014. "Biofuels, tax policies and oil prices in France: Insights from a dynamic CGE model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 603-614.
    2. Panichelli, Luis & Gnansounou, Edgard, 2015. "Impact of agricultural-based biofuel production on greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change: Key modelling choices," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 344-360.
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    European Union; Energy and environmental policy; Modeling: new developments;

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