While the recent emergence of a global land rush has initiated large debates and conflicts over the use and access to land, further investigation into the underlying drivers is required to enhance the understanding of the potential trajectories of the land grab phenomenon. This paper takes a biophysical perspective and explores how declining fossil stocks and a global transition towards renewable energies ultimately drive the land rush. The paper addresses, in qualitative terms, how societal needs for land change with different patterns of societal energy metabolism. The potential spatial expansions of renewables are illustrated in quantitative terms, based on the power density concept and energy provision forecasts for the year 2020. The transition from an energy system based on fossils stocks, with high power densities, to one based on renewables, with low power densities, drastically boosts societal demand for land. This drives the land rush directly through land acquisitions for the expansion of energy systems. The energy transition also drives the land rush indirectly, in particular through food security threats motivated by the growing competition over farmland uses and changes in crop supply. Although currently fossil stocks are still relatively abundant, future declines are expected to trigger the demand for land to even greater extents. Given the inevitability of the energy transition, we believe that the land rush will have persistence, bearing long-term consequences for land use and struggles over access to land. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
- Energetic metabolism of societies
- Energy transition
- Land grabbing
- Land rush
- Peak oil