Sustainable Production of Second-Generation Biofuels: Potential and Perspectives in Major Economies and Developing Countries
Global biofuel production has been increasing rapidly over the last decade, but the expanding biofuel industry has recently raised important concerns. In particular, the sustainability of many first-generation biofuels – which are produced primarily from food crops such as grains, sugar cane and vegetable oils – has been increasingly questioned over concerns such as reported displacement of food-crops, effects on the environment and climate change. In general, there is growing consensus that if significant emission reductions in the transport sector are to be achieved, biofuel technologies must become more efficient in terms of net lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions while at the same time be socially and environmentally sustainable. It is increasingly understood that most first-generation biofuels, with the exception of sugar cane ethanol, will likely have a limited role in the future transport fuel mix. The increasing criticism of the sustainability of many first-generation biofuels has raised attention to the potential of so-called second-generation biofuels. Depending on the feedstock choice and the cultivation technique, second-generation biofuel production has the potential to provide benefits such as consuming waste residues and making use of abandoned land. In this way, the new fuels could offer considerable potential to promote rural development and improve economic conditions in emerging and developing regions. However, while second-generation biofuel crops and production technologies are more efficient, their production could become unsustainable if they compete with food crops for available land. Thus, their sustainability will depend on whether producers comply with criteria like minimum lifecycle GHG reductions, including land use change, and social standards.
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