A new report by the Royal Academy of Engineering has called for more planting of perennial energy crops such as Short Rotation Coppice (SRC), Miscanthus and Switchgrass for second generation biofuel production. The report called Sustainability of Liquid Biofuels states that lignocellulosic crops provide better land resource efficiency and life cycle carbon emissions than the production of biofuels from food crops such as wheat and maize. In addition, SRC is unusual amongst biofuel options in having lower a lower acidification impact compared to fossil fuels. The only other feedstock to achieve this is used cooking oil. Most first and second generation biofuels have a larger eutrophication impact but this is a factor of between 4 and 15 times less for SRC compared to maize and virtually on a par with fossil fuels.
The report includes the following policy recommendations:
- Incentivise the development of second generation biofuels, in the first instance those derived from wastes and agricultural, forest and sawmill residues, followed by dedicated energy crops.
- Set a cap for the supply of all crop-based biofuels to reduce the risk of indirect land-use change.
- Where possible, incentivise the use of marginal land (eg. land unsuitable for food production or degraded through deforestation) for the production of biofuels, particularly if soil carbon stocks can be restored through use.
Read the full report here.