Biofuel initiatives in India have gained momentum with the national biofuel policy targeting 20% blending of both petrol and diesel by 2017. Most of India´s biofuel plans revolve around using sugarcane for bioethanol and Jatropha for biodiesel production. This study, taking the southern Indian state of Karnataka as an example, aims at estimating the potential to achieve policy targets. The study spatially analyses land-use change owing to biofuel expansion and its effects on food production. We used an integrated modelling framework to simulate land-use change and bio-energy production under two scenarios – Industrial Economy (IE) and Agricultural Economy (AE). Results indicate that meeting the 20% blending target is a challenging goal to achieve under both scenarios.
Bioethanol requirements can be nearly fulfilled (88% under IE and 93% under AE) because of sugarcane expansion. However, biodiesel demands cannot be fulfilled using only degraded lands as currently planned in India, but additional agricultural land (3–4% of the total cropland) will be required for Jatropha-based biodiesel production. Food production will not be directly impacted until 2025, because the largest source of additional land could be short-and-long-term fallows. We conclude that conservation oriented initiatives, such as water harvesting and energy conservation measures can increase productivity of biofuel crops and reduce fuel demands, respectively. State support and Clean Development Mechanism opportunities can enhance economic incentives for energy cropping. Therefore, a simultaneous and multi-pronged approach is needed to accommodate food and fuel demands in India.