A report published by the UNESCO hosted World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) has warned that the sharp increase in biofuel production has impacted significantly on water demand.
According to the United Nations World Water Development Report 3, presented
ahead of the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul, production of ethanol
stood at 77 billion litres in 2008 and should reach 127 billion litres
One of the major problems with biofuels is the need for large quantities of
water and fertilizers to grow the crops. Between 1 000 and 4 000 litres of
water are needed to produce a single litre of biofuel.
In 2007, 23% of maize production in the USA and 54% of Brazil's sugar cane
crop were used for ethanol production, and in 2008 47% of vegetable oils
produced in the European Union were used to produce biodiesel.
In 2008, the ethanol share of the transport fuel market was estimated at
4.5% for the United States, 40% for Brazil and 2.2% for the European Union.
The report says that, despite their potential to help reduce dependence on
fossil energy, biofuels, with current technology, are likely to place a
disproportionate amount of pressure on biodiversity and the environment.
Coordinated by the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), the report is
the result of a co-operative effort by the 26 United Nations agencies and
entities that make up UN-Water.
While national biofuel targets have generally been set to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, last year two large studies published in the Journal Science
showed that most biofuels cause more emissions than conventional fuels if
the pollution from production is taken into account.
Later in the year the European Environment Agency (EEA) Scientific Committee
has recommended the suspension of the EU target of 10% biofuel use in
transport by 2010 because of environmental factors and food security issues.
UN World Food Programme (EFP) head Josette Sheeran also warned that European
Union countries needed to look more carefully at the effect that biofuels
were having on food prices around the world and especially on third world