Mike Gaworecki, mongabay.com correspondent
February 27, 2015
Oil palm fruit, which can be used for biofuel. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
A new report from the World Resources Institute finds that dedicating land to the production of biofuels, a form of renewable energy made from plants, may undermine efforts to achieve a sustainable food future, combat climate change, and protect forests.
The global population hit seven billion in 2011 and is expected to grow to nine billion in 2050. Feeding all those people without chopping down forests for agriculture and livestock will already be a difficult task, according to Tim Searchinger, a senior fellow at WRI who wrote the report. Dedicating land to the production of bioenergy crops will make it much harder.
“The bottom line is, the world only has so much land, and we are going to struggle to produce all the additional food we need by 2050 without cutting down more forests,” Searchinger told mongabay.com. “And if you add bioenergy to that it makes it virtually impossible.”
The problem, of course, is that if you dedicate land to growing crops like sugarcane, corn, soybeans, or wood solely for the production of biofuels, you can’t use that land to grow food–or as a carbon sink. We already use a whopping three-fourths of the world’s vegetated land for crops, livestock grazing, and wood harvests, according to the WRI paper. And the remaining land really should be left as is, since it protects clean water, supports biodiversity, and stores carbon.
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