Biomass is any organic, i.e. decomposing, matter derived from plants or animals available on a renewable basis. Biomass includes wood and agricultural crops, herbaceous and woody energy crops, municipal organic wastes as well as manure.
Biofuels are fuels derived from biomass or waste feedstocks; includes ethanol and biodiesel.
Global production of biofuels – liquid and gaseous fuels derived from biomass – has been growing steadily over the last decade from 16 billion litres in 2000 to more than 100 billion litres in 2011. Today, biofuels provide around 3% of total road transport fuel globally (on an energy basis) and considerably higher shares are achieved in certain countries. Brazil, for instance, met about 23% of its road transport fuel demand in 2009 with biofuels.
IEA analyses show that biofuels may have to play an important role if the world is to make meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, and reduce reliance on crude oil at costs similar to those of gasoline and diesel in the medium-term. However, current production processes do not always meet expected net life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and cost performance targets, and certain conventional biofuels have been criticised for causing deforestation and adding to pressure on agricultural land needed for food and fodder production. The IEA considers it important to distinguish between different types of feedstocks and conversion routes, and ensure deployment of land-use efficient, low-carbon biofuels to meet growing demand.
The IEA calls on governments to ensure that their biofuel support policies foster the transition towards fully sustainable biofuels, including advanced biofuel technologies. Internationally aligned sustainability certification schemes for biofuels will be vital to ensure a positive environmental and social impact, and create an international market for sustainable biofuels. The IEA emphasises the importance of continuing to support advanced biofuels research, development and demonstration, and provide sound support mechanisms to ensure that the new technologies reach full market deployment. Any economic incentive should however be transitional, decrease over time and be aimed at encouraging the full competitiveness of alternative fuels.