Biofuels Regain Momentum

Sam Shrank and Farhad Farahmand | Aug 29, 2011

Global biofuel production increased by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters.1 (See Figure 1.) The increase exceeded the 10 percent growth experienced in 2009, when production was at 90 billion liters.2 Biofuels provided 2.7 percent of all global fuel for road transportation—an increase from 2 percent in 2009.3

Vital Signs Trend Biofuels Figure 1

The two biofuel alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation largely consist of ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is primarily made by fermenting the sugars in corn and sugarcane, while biodiesel is produced from fats and vegetable oils. The world produced 86 billion liters of ethanol in 2010, which was 18 percent more than in 2009.4 World biodiesel production rose to 19 billion liters in 2010, a 12 percent increase from 2009.5

The United States again led the world in ethanol production in 2010 at 49 billion liters, or 57 percent of world output.6 Brazil was the second largest producer, at 28 billion liters, which was 33 percent of the world total.7 Distant followers included China, Canada, France, Germany, and Spain, each producing less than 2.5 percent of world supply.8 No other countries showed significant changes in ethanol production.

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization known around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Learn More