A biofuel expert yesterday rejected an international report
claiming that China's plan to produce more biofuels could lead to
food and water shortages in the country.
"The report misunderstands China's policy and situation in the
area of biofuel production from corn," Li Shizhong, deputy director
of the Institute of New Energy Technological Research at Tsinghua
University, said. "China has long emphasized the use of non-staple
food in making biofuel."
Only about 2 percent of the country's corn output, or about 3 to
4 million tons a year, is used to make ethanol. Much of the rest is
used for animal feed.
In their effort to develop biofuel without harming the general
food supply, the authorities have said they would shift from corn
to sorghum, cassava and sweet potato for fuel production in the
next five years.
Cassava and sweet potato are both high-yield plants, and, though
edible, they are not used as a staple food. Their use as a raw
material would not create any artificial shortages of food
The recently released Agricultural Biofuel Industry Plan rules
out the expansion of grain-based ethanol production, specifically
the corn- and potato-based versions.
Li's comments came in response to a report released yesterday by
the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), which is based
in Sri Lanka.
The report said plans by China and India to increase production
of biofuel from irrigated maize and sugarcane would aggravate water
shortages and undermine food output.
The report said China's goal of reaching 15 million tons
biofuels by 2020, or 9 percent of the nation's gasoline demand,
would mean increasing maize output by 26 percent.
"Biofuel production has serious implications for water,
especially if corn and sugarcane are used," Charlotte de Fraiture,
an IWMI expert, said during a telephone interview.
In response to Li's comments, Fraiture praised China's decision
to shift the focus of its biofuel production policies to non-staple
"I think China's efforts to ensure food security by shifting to
non-staple foods and policy to cap further corn ethanol plants are
very good," she said.
She said the two countries could focus on crops that need less
water, such as sweet sorghum for ethanol and jatropha bush and
pongamia trees for biodiesel. "There are many factors playing a
role in designing a biofuel policy, of which, water is one
(China Daily October 12, 2007)