The potential of plants to replace fossil oil was evaluated by considering the scale of production required, the area of land needed and the types of plants available. High yielding crops (50 tonnes/ha) that have a high conversion efficiency (75%) would require a global land footprint of around 100 million ha to replace current (2008) oil consumption. Lower yielding or less convertible plants would require a larger land footprint. Domestication of new species as dedicated energy crops may be necessary. A systematic analysis of higher plants and their current and potential uses is presented. Plant biotechnology provides tools to improve the prospects of replacing oil with plant-derived biomass by increasing the amount of biomass produced per unit area of land and improving the composition of the biomass to increase the efficiency of conversion to biofuel and biomaterials. Options for the production of high value coproducts and the expression of processing aids such as enzymes in the plant may add further value to plants as bioenergy resources.