Biofuels production versus forestry in the presence of lobbies and technological change

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Production and use of biofuels, both for electricity and heat generation and for transportation, has grown over the past years. There are many reasons for this, among other climate change, energy security, high fossil fuel prices and rural development goals. Production of most types of biofuels requires land, however, thus competing for land both with agriculture and with forestry. For instance, Hyytiäinen et al. (2008) find for Finland that the production of biofuels (reed canary grass) is the most profitable use of arable land (compared to growing oats or pine trees), although only in the proximity of (at most 40 km from) a thermal power station. Lankoski and Ollikainen (2008), in turn find that production of reed canary grass in Finland, when the alternative is oats, is socially optimal even 100 km away from the power plant. In the tropics, not only fallow or unused agricultural land is used for biofuel production but also rainforest land has been converted, for instance, to palm oil plantations. This development is largely driven by policy measures, for instance, by the European Union's (EU) 20-20-20 target (a reduction of at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions, and a 20% share of renewable energies in the EU's energy consumption by 2020), set by the European Council in March 2007.

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