Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Increasing the use of biofuels is an important part of achieving the EU’s target of 10 percent renewable energy in the transport sector. However, the competition between biofuels and food production is an ongoing concern. Also, several studies have indicated a significantly higher climate impact than was earlier estimated, due to emissions from land use.
In Sweden, both the use and production of biofuels from crops have increased substantially during the last decade. The purpose of this project is first to present an overview of the Swedish land use in all sectors. Secondly, the purpose is to analyse the influence of Swedish biofuels on land use changes, both inside and outside of Sweden. The study covers the period 2000 – 2012 and was performed through gathering, processing and analysing of statistical data.
The arable land in Sweden has decreased by about 100 000 hectares during the studied period. In 2012, the domestic raw material needed about 50 000 hectares for bioethanol and 8 000 hectares for biodiesel. Together, these amounts correspond to a share of two percent of the arable land in Sweden. The domestic land use in the biofuel sector varies due to the produced amount of biofuel, the share of imported raw material and yearly variations in yield. The Swedish bioethanol production used only domestic land at first. However, according to the calculations in this study, the share of foreign land needed in Swedish bioethanol production has increased and reached almost 60 000 hectares in 2012. Areas directly required for biodiesel production have mostly consisted of foreign land ever since the opening of Swedish biodiesel factories.
It could not be concluded with certainty whether or not biofuel production from crops has prevented the decline of arable land. Instead, the study indicated that biofuels have affected Sweden's total requirement of foreign areas abroad for rapeseed and wheat. Therefore, if cultivation of feedstock for biofuels is to prevent the ongoing abandonment of farmland, both producers and politicians must decide on the future role of biofuels in Swedish agriculture.
The increased use of land outside of Sweden for Sweden’s biofuel production leads to a decrease in control of land use changes, and there may be a risk for indirect land use changes. This study indicates that the Swedish biodiesel production implies larger risk of iLUC than the Swedish ethanol production. The reason is the deficit of vegetable oil in Europe. An increased demand for rapeseed oil in the biofuel sector may lead to increased import of palm oil.
To reach further conclusions in a future study with similar methodology the author recommends to:
Use a lower geographical level of aggregation of data on land use and cultivation of raw materials for biofuels.
Study a larger geographic area than Sweden such as Europe or the EU.
Specifically study the import of vegetable oil to Europe and its connection with increased biodiesel production. A question of interest is whether the increased consumption of European rapeseed for biodiesel has caused increased imports of palm oil or decreased imports of soymeal.