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Biofuels in China: crop production and water scarcity

In 2009 China produced 2 billion litres of biofuels, ranking the country third behind Brazil and the USA. The Chinese government has set ambitious targets seeing biofuels as not only contributing to the country’s rapidly expanding energy needs, but also as a way of providing rural employment. With China having 20 percent of the world’s population but only seven percent of its arable area, biofuels production is clearly constrained by land availability. However, a far more precious resource may be the most limiting factor yet: water. Southwest China has seen large biofuels development partly sustained by access to large water reserves including two of the world’s great rivers – the Yangtze and the Mekong. Despite access to a more plentiful supply of water from these rivers there are concerns about the impact of mass cultivation of biofuels on water resources and quality. In the north, with only 14 percent of China’s water resources, the challenges related to biofuels production could be far more acute, according to the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.

Year: 2012

From collection: Biofuels Vital Graphics - Powering Green Economy

Cartographer: Riccardo Pravettoni, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

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