European report shows increased ILUC levels for ethanol

By Erin Voegele | March 27, 2014

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center recently published a new report on indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions from biofuels. The study presents the results of a new run on the economic model MIRAGE (Modeling International Relationships in Applied General Equilibrium), which was used to calculate ILUC greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a 2012 European Commission proposal. Unlike new preliminary ILUC levels released by the California Energy Commission with regard to the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard that found reduced ILUC impact for first-generation biofuels, the JRC’s analysis actually increased ILUC estimates for biofuels manufactured using cereal feedstocks.

Within the report, the JRC indicates its new analysis provides an evaluation of GHG emission by crop groups, maintaining the same model assumptions and parameters as in the previous analysis. In addition new runs of the MIRAGE model included updated assumptions and parameters.

Modeling that brought E.U. 2020 wheat yield in line with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Food and Agriculture Organization projections caused ILUC emissions estimates for wheat ethanol to increase by 15 percent. ILUC levels for other crops were either unaffected or reduced. For example, ILUC impacts associated with sugar beet ethanol dropped slightly while corn ethanol was unaffected.

When an original modeling assumption that the crop category “other oilseeds,” including olives, could be replaced by cereal production was removed, the ILUC estimates either stayed the same or increased by as much as 29 percent. For example, the estimate for sugarcane ethanol stayed the same, but the estimates for wheat ethanol, corn ethanol and sugar beet ethanol increased slightly.

If the variable for food consumption was kept constant in the modeling, ILUC dropped by as much as 20 percent and rose by as much as 30 percent. ILUC estimates for sugar beet ethanol dropped slightly, while those for sugarcane ethanol, corn ethanol and wheat ethanol all increased.

When the first two factors were combined (wheat yields and other oilseeds), the ILUC levels associated with all four types of ethanol increased. When all three factors were combined the ILUC level for sugar beet ethanol stayed the same, but increased for the other three types of ethanol studied.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the JRC website.