Crop–based biofuels:  To cap or not to cap?

June 2017 - RED II proposes forbidding Members States use of safe effective crop-based biofuels in their climate plans, even those with low or no ILUC such as EU ethanol.

Surely not?

EU ethanol is near-zero ILUC, cost effective, compatible with today’s fleet and already available at scale.  And it brings lots of jobs, growth, innovation and investment.  It’s actually the ONLY thing that can bring significant climate progress to the petrol sector by 2030. 

Allowing Member States use safe effective crop-based ethanol in their climate plans enables them increase their climate ambitions in transport and ease the burden on other sectors.

It gives policy stability too, preserving the jobs, investment and farm incomes already in place. 

A world using fewer fossil fuels and materials needs sustainably produced alternatives.  The time to learn how to do things sustainably is now.   RED II pushes that challenge down the road for future generations to overcome.  Any sustainability assessment will show that EU ethanol needs no cap.  It’s a peace of mind solution, bringing no adverse side effects under any policy scenario.

Call ILUC by its street name – palm deforestation – and the biofuels conundrum instantly gets simpler.  Palm deforestation is an issue in all sectors. Take palm oil and its derivatives out of biodiesel and you take most ILUC out of EU biofuels in one fell swoop.  If RED II means business it needs to stop with the "paralysis by analysis" and tackle the job in hand.  The one-size-fits-all cap lets cheap and easy palm diesel flood in while deterring investment in the good biofuels that do what it says in the very first paragraph of the proposed directive:  "contribute to climate change mitigation through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, achieve sustainable development, protect the environment and improve citizens' health. Moreover, renewable energy is also emerging as a driver of inclusive economic growth, creating jobs and reinforcing energy security across Europe".  EU ethanol ticks all the boxes (does palm diesel tick any?).  

The optimum usage level of EU climate ethanol is three or four times today’s and corresponds to a 15% ethanol blend in petrol by energy.  The volume of crops needed is tiny and Europe’s farmers will supply them without using a single extra hectare of land and without diverting a single gramme away from other sectors (that's what zero-ILUC means). 

If there’s one thing we’ve plenty of in Europe it’s untapped farm capacity that can be responsibly and safely used.

- James Cogan, Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd


episode 0 - (Trailer)

Climate change is well underway. And it is happening because of human activity.
But it is proving virtually impossible to make climate progress in transport.

Transport is the only sector where there is no silver bullet, we are still far from zero emissions vehicles and we need alternatives.  

Ethanol is one of those alternatives and this video series explains why.



In the fight against climate change Europe should apply no cap on safe EU ethanol.

European ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions in petrol vehicles by nearly 70%.  Nothing else makes such an immediate impact. 
And it can be made in sufficient quantities by conventional and advanced processes with no adverse side effects.

20% ethanol blends in today's cars and fuels can assure billions of tons of fossil carbon stay in the ground where they belong.



Ethanol poses no risk to food security.  Quite the opposite.  Surplus starch from Europe's vast farm output is converted to climate friendly fuel while valuable protein and vegetable oil stay in the food sector where they are needed.  

Instead of exporting mountains of cereal grains to faraway meat producers and importing mountains of soya meal for domestic livestock, the ethanol sector supports value adding processes, livestock nutrition, climate action, jobs and investment at home. 

Unlike palm oil biodiesel, ethanol poses no threat of unwanted land use change, or 'ILUC'.  European cereals output goes up several million tons per year on an ever decreasing land area.  The increase alone between now and 2030 will cover our climate ethanol needs many times over.



Europe, the USA and Brazil now have decades of positive ethanol experience.

But Europe's fuel and car tax regime needs to be reformed so that it taxes by pollution impact, by climate performance and by energy content.  Climate friendly ethanol is currently taxed the hardest while fossil diesel is taxed the lightest.

It'll take ten years for new vehicles sales to reach a significant electric share and another 20-30 years for the entire fleet to reach a significant electric share.  In the meantime ethanol can make an immediate contribution to climate change mitigation.

A phase out of conventional biofuels jeopardises the EU 2030 climate and energy goals.
— Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary General, ePURE


Ethanol is the most economical and effective high octane petrol additive available.  It is both a fuel and a fuel enhancer, allowing engines run leaner and cleaner.  

Petrol is twenty times cleaner than diesel and ethanol blend petrol is cleaner still.  Fuel distributors should be made to use ethanol to make fossil petrol cleaner and more climate friendly, and not simply to use ethanol for upgrading cheap sub-standard petrol to minimum acceptable standards.

ILUC criteria and full carbon accounting should be applied in European policy on biofuels.



Conventional and advanced ethanol together can displace over 20% of fossil petrol by 2030.  

The two are complementary, constituting a platform for bio-based circular economy innovation, investment and resource efficiency in food, energy and materials.

Advanced ethanol operations can even be carbon negative.

Food insecurity is caused by inequitable distribution, waste and poverty.  Ethanol refineries are sources of economic health and well-being in poor rural communities. 

Europe's policy framework needs to take account of these factors if the opportunities are to be realised.



European ethanol is all good.  

The transport energy sector can be reformed from an old model of large centralised facilities based on imported fossil oil to a local, distributed and diversified model where the value stays in the community.

Europe's cars today are suited to ethanol blends.  The ethanol sector represents an opportunity to create a massive amount of decarbonisation in EU transport sector.

Electro-mobility will grow gradually.  Biofuels go to work immediately in existing gas tanks on the roads today.

European regulators should properly assess the benefits and risks of 20% ethanol deployment in the petrol sector by 2030 by a mix of conventional and advanced forms.  They will find that it adds up to a very positive picture. Ethanol is safe.