We compared the production–ecological sustainability of biofuel production from several major crops that are also commonly used for production of food or feed, based on current production practices in major production areas. The set of nine sustainability indicators focused on resource use efficiency, soil quality, net energy production and greenhouse gas emissions, disregarding socio-economic or biodiversity aspects and land use change. Based on these nine production–ecological indicators and attributing equal importance to each indicator, biofuel produced from oil palm (South East Asia), sugarcane (Brazil) and sweet sorghum (China) appeared most sustainable: these crops make the most efficient use of land, water, nitrogen and energy resources, while pesticide applications are relatively low in relation to the net energy produced. Provided there is no land use change, greenhouse gas emissions of these three biofuels are substantially reduced compared with fossil fuels. Oil palm was most sustainable with respect to the maintenance of soil quality. Maize (USA) and wheat (Northwest Europe) as feedstock for ethanol perform poorly for nearly all indicators. Sugar beet (Northwest Europe), cassava (Thailand), rapeseed (Northwest Europe) and soybean (USA) take an intermediate position.
- chain energy analysis
- biodiesel production
- sweet sorghum
- fuel ethanol
de Vries, S. C., van de Ven, G. W. J., van Ittersum, M. K., & Giller, K. E. (2010). Resource use efficiency and environmental performance of nine major biofuel crops, processed by first-generation conversion techniques. Biomass and Bioenergy, 34(5), 588-601. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.01.001