Facts and Figures

It takes an average of roughly 2,500 litres of water to produce 1 litre of liquid biofuel.

  • World Energy Outlook 2006 projected an average rate of growth of bioenergy production of 7% a year. 
  • The international policy environment, national policy support and oil prices will strongly influence future demand for biofuel. Global ethanol production is projected to increase rapidly to 127 billion litres in 2017, with production concentrated in the United States, Brazil and, to a lesser extent, the European Union and China. Global biodiesel production is expected to reach 24 billion litres in 2017.
  • By 2030 biofuels are expected to meet 4% of road-transport fuel demand worldwide, up from 1% today.
  • Globally, irrigation water allocated to biofuel production is estimated at 44 km3, or 2% of all irrigation water.
  • Under current production conditions it takes an average of roughly 2,500 litres of water (about 820 litres of it irrigation water) to produce 1 litre of liquid biofuel (the same amount needed on average to produce food for one person for one day). 
  • The share of irrigation water used for biofuel production is negligible in Brazil and the European Union and is estimated to be 2% in China and 3% in the United States. Implementing all current national biofuel policies and plans would take 30 million hectares of cropland and 180 km3 of additional irrigation water.
  • More than one-third of maize production in the United States in 2008 was being used to produce ethanol and about half the vegetable oils produced in the European Union were being used for biodiesel fuel. 
  • Although the impact is extremely difficult to assess, bioenergy production is estimated to have caused up to 70%-75% of the rise in the global prices of some food stocks, including approximately 70% of the increase in maize prices.

Related themes: Energy; Allocating Water; Food and Agriculture

Back to top