Biofuels for Transportation. Global potential and implications for sustainable agriculture and energy in the 21st century


Worldwatch Institute 

In view of the forecasted shortages and increasing prices of fossil fuels, climate change, and the need for new income and employment opportunities in rural areas, biofuels have taken center stage in policy debates. 

The use of biofuels is developing favorably worldwide. Brazil, the United States, many European countries, and a growing number of countries in Southeast Asia are now pinning their hopes on biofuels. Brazil and the United States are the largest producers of ethanol in the world. China, too, has launched a program with a view to using ethanol as a fuel. 

The German Federal Government welcomes and supports this development in the interest of global climate and resource protection and in order to seize the opportunities for rural development. However, the full potential of biofuels is only now becoming apparent. 

What is now needed for targeted global action is a comprehensive account of the global options for the use of liquid biofuels. This concerns not only their technological potential, but also their sustainable economic potential. The German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) therefore commissioned the Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to draw up a study on this global potential, with the research support of the Worldwatch Institute. 

The report, Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century, aims at presenting theopportunities, but also the limits, of global biofuel production and use in terms of  energy, agricultural, environmental, and rural development aspects, as well as in economic terms. The report also examines the impact of globally expanded biofuel production on Germany’s biofuel sector. Finally, the study presents detailed recommendations for action for decision-makers in politics, industry, and elsewhere. 

Central elements of the study include:

• Consolidation of previous German studies and experience;
• Regional studies and workshops in Brazil, China, India, Tanzania, as well as the United States;
• Global analysis and derivation of recommendations for action; and
• Incorporation of the results into the international debate.
The regional studies (available at analyze the current market usage of liquid biofuels, new technologies, land availability, relevant trade issues, environmental risks and opportunities, social aspects, and many other factors. The global study assesses the potential role of biofuels in the future global energy matrix and in sustainable development. This provides a basis for developing recommendations for policymakers.