A dramatic article title for a dramatic debate on growing energy crops. The discussion about "ILUC" is currently upsetting the bioenergy industry. Opinions on ILUC are very divided. This is nothing new when it comes to biofuels. The biofuel companies fear declining sales and investment backlogs, but some environmental groups are keeping the issue on the agenda and want to get to the bottom of environmental risks. The article presents a list of 10 perspectives on ILUC.
The branch of Biofuels faces up to the critical topic, but would like to avoid a debate that is similarly emotional and partly below the belt as to the tank or plate conflict. After all, biofuels are also about many jobs and an innovative industry that has started to make its contribution to the energy and raw materials transition.
As an introduction to the ILUC topic, I also recommend reading the article on moral issues and the ethical dimension of the energetic use of biomass. This is mainly about the tank or plate debate, although many arguments also apply to ILUC.
What is ILUC?
ILUC stands for "Indirect Land Use Change" and, in short, examines the effects that can indirectly arise from the cultivation of energy crops.
Specifically, the effects of land use changes are meant, which would probably not have happened without the targeted cultivation of energy crops. This additional arable land means that additional agricultural processing steps (sowing, fertilization etc.) are necessary, which in turn release additional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The positive carbon footprint of products made from energy crops, such as biofuels, is clouded by this effect.
Various studies are currently investigating how strongly the ILUC factor influences the carbon footprint of biofuels. Studies published in October 2011 (see below) assume a 15-50% increase in GHG values for biofuels. The wide range is due to the use of various energy crops and cultivation systems for bioethanol and biodiesel.
When considering the ILUC factor, the carbon footprint of biofuels largely remains significantly better than that of fossil colleagues. Nevertheless, the CO2018 reduction rates demanded by the European Commission and rising to 60% by 2, especially with current biodiesel fuels, can hardly be met. At least that's how the ILUC study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) sees it. For each study, however, the publisher must also be taken into account, who in this case has traditionally been committed to promoting the cultivation of food.
10 perspectives on ILUC - Indirect Land Use Change
Here are 10 perspectives and arguments on ILUC.
- ILUC is a threat to the survival of some biofuels (e.g. rapeseed and soy biodiesel).
- ILUC is a necessary debate in order to weigh up existing environmental risks and to be able to specifically support the most suitable forms of bioenergy generation.
- ILUC is a topic that must be discussed for every system (!) For energy generation. Land use changes are also made by fossil fuels or by wind and solar energy and are part of every landscape intervention. Either all energy systems are taken into account in the ILUC debate or none. Unilateral discrimination against bioenergy should be avoided.
- ILUC is the result of the opportunity to integrate previously unusable or economically unused areas into the regional value chain.
- How can a negative development of the CO2 balance of biofuels by ILUC and the positive development of the economy in the regions growing energy crops be "offset"?
- How can the debate about ILUC be conducted critically, but also exploring the potential? After all, the discussion about ILUC also costs valuable time and creative energy that is lost for the rapid introduction of regenerative alternatives.
- ILUC once again shows that the acceleration of the introduction of Next generation biofuels is very important.
- ILUC also shows that the value of arable land and thus the competition for existing land has increased due to the cultivation of energy crops. This development brings with it shifts which harbor opportunities and risks.
- Which areas (forests?) Are too valuable to be used for the cultivation of energy crops and which areas (fallow land?) Are useful and acceptable? This question should be answered together with countries whose most important resource is a large biomass potential and rich arable land.
- We should take ILUC seriously as an intervention in the landscape and the ecosystem network, but a largely improved climate balance is only ONE of many Benefits of bioenergy. Diversity also exists in biofuels and should be taken into account in the public ILUC debate.
International studies on ILUC published
The precise effects of ILUC on the climate balance of biofuels are currently being determined by several studies commissioned by the European Commission.
Here is a small selection of international studies and statements on the ILUC problem. The download of the 2.5 MB studies sometimes takes a little longer.
- Biofuels and ILUC study by Ernst & Young | Published in October 2011
- ILUC MIRAGE study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) | Published in October 2011
- ILUC statement from the German biofuels industry (VDB, BDBe, UFOP, DBV) on the ILUC problem | Released November 2010
- ILUC study for the USA by Seungdo Kim and Bruce E.Dale | Released April 2011
- ILUC in life cycle assessments - Scientific resilience and compliance with international standards | Published in May 2013 by Prof. Finkbeiner
The oil withdrawal is harder than expected
The interesting article “ILUC kills the bio fuel industry“On the Weltinnenpolitik.net blog, the ILUC debate looks with critical, but unfortunately also somewhat one-sided, industry-damaging eyes and with little heart for the new cultivation options for many farmers. It's a clear contra-biofuels article. Nevertheless, I would like to recommend the article here because it also contains very interesting arguments.
Form your own opinion, but also consider the great potential of biofuels and the fact that oil remains finite on earth and we are dependent on the search for alternatives. With all commendable ambitions for strong environmental and climate protection, many of our civilizational achievements of the past 150 years are also based on the use of oil. If environmental protection demands are too strong, we must also take into account all the consequences that result from this and then we all have to face it.
Where does the fear come from that is projected into biofuels? Am I not critical enough about biofuels, or are critics using biofuels as a scapegoat for our desperate withdrawal from oil together?
I have no answer to this question even if I have been asking myself more questions lately. Perhaps the concern about the enormous environmental damage that could result from biofuels is also a general fear of "industries"? After all, we have accumulated a lot of experience in our collective memory about the dark side of industrialization.
The energy and resource turnaround and the deprivation of the slowly running out of oil are definitely much harder than expected. A film that offers a deeper and very exciting introduction to this problem is the film "Home" by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
What do you think?