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The Best Crops for Biofuels, Visualized – ENERGYminute

These translations are done via Google Translate

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates the share of biofuels in the global transport sector by 2050 will reach 15 – 23 percent (%).

World Biofuel Production

Country Ethanol, 2020 (billion litres)
United States 56.8
Brzail 28.4
European Union 4.9
China 3.3
India 3.1
Canada 1.7
Thailand 1.5
Argentina 1.0
Rest of World 2.8
Total 103.4
Source: Statista

In 2020, the United States (U.S.) and Brazil produced about 83% of the world’s ethanol.  In the U.S., ethanol is primarily (94%) produced from corn, whereas, in Brazil sugar cane is the primary feedstock.

In the 2019/20 season, 35% of the U.S. corn supply (4.9 billion bushels) became ethanol feedstock.

Country Biodiesel, 2019 (billion litres)
Indonesia 7.9
US 6.5
Brazil 5.9
Germany 3.8
France 3.0
Argentina 2.5
Netherlands 2.1
Spain 2.0
Thailand 1.7
Malaysia 1.6
Italy 1.0
Poland 1.0
China 0.6
Canada 0.3
India 0.2
Other 0.9
Total 41.0
Source: Statista

Biofuel Yields by Feedstock

Biofuel yields per acre depend on various factors including the feedstock and where the fuel is being produced. Ethanol produced from maize (corn) in the United States yields almost double that from maize produced in China.

Common feedstocks for biodiesel in the U.S. are soybean oil, corn oil, and recycled cooking oils.

Ethanol – Well-to Wheel GHG Life Cycle Analysis

A recent study examining the carbon intensity of corn ethanol in the United States found the greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol to be 46% lower than gasoline.

The Scully et al. team found that the components contributing the greatest to total carbon intensity were the ethanol production (29.6 gCO2e/MJ, 58% of total) and farming practices net of co-product credit (13.2 gCO2e/MJ, 26%) while land use change was a minor contributor (3.9 gCO2eMJ, 7%).

It should be noted, however, that GHG emissions impacts from biofuel production will vary significantly depending on the feedstock used to produce the fuel, the model used to calculate the results and the assumptions underlying the inputs.


gCO2e/MJ – grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule

ANL – Argonne National Lab

CARB – California Air Resources Board

GHG = greenhouse gas

ICF – ICF International

USDA – United States Department of Agriculture


Melissa J. Scully et al. (2021) “Carbon intensity of corn ethanol in the United States: state of the science” Environ. Res. Lett. in press doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/abde08

Comparison of biofuel life-cycle GHG emissions assessment tools: The case studies of ethanol produced from sugarcane, corn, and wheat – !O.CavalettaA.BonomiacY.ZhangdE.WarnerdH.L.Chumd

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