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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Submissions: Integrated Solutions to the Soil and Agri-Environmental Challenges Facing China in The 21st Century

Biofuel Development, Food Security and the Use of Marginal Land in China


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 4, p. 1058-1067
    Received: Jan 11, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): jkhuang.ccap@igsnrr.ac.cn
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  1. Huanguang Qiuab,
  2. Jikun Huang *a,
  3. Michiel Keyzerc,
  4. Wim van Veenc,
  5. Scott Rozelled,
  6. Guenther Fishere and
  7. Tatiana Ermolievae
  1. a Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Jia 11, Datun Road, Anwai, Beijing, 100101
    b Dep. of Financial & Management Studies, SOAS, Univ. of London, London WC1H 0GX, UK
    c Centre for World Food Studies, Free Univ., De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    d Food Security and the Environment Program, Stanford Univ., Stanford, CA 95305
    e International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria. Assigned to Associate Editor J.T. Sims


With concerns of energy shortages, China, like the United States, European Union, and other countries, is promoting the development of biofuels. However, China also faces high future demand for food and feed, and so its bioenergy program must try to strike a balance between food and fuel. The goals of this paper are to provide an overview of China's current bioethanol program, identify the potential for using marginal lands for feedstock production, and measure the likely impacts of China's bioethanol development on the nation's future food self-sufficiency. Our results indicate that the potential to use marginal land for bioethanol feedstock production is limited. Applying a modeling approach based on highly disaggregated data by region, our analysis shows that the target of 10 million t of bioethanol by 2020 seems to be a prudent target, causing no major disturbances in China's food security. But the expansion of bioethanol may increase environmental pressures due to the higher levels of fertilizer use. This study shows also that if China were able to cultivate 45% of its required bioethanol feedstock on new marginal land, it would further limit negative effects of the bioethanol program on the domestic and international economy, but at the expense of having to apply another 750 thousand t of fertilizer.

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Copyright © 2011. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.