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Europe’s renewable ethanol industry produced more food than fuel in 2021

Europe’s renewable ethanol industry produced more food than fuel in 2021
All the feedstock used to produce renewable ethanol by ePURE members in 2021 was grown in Europe. Of the 5.58 billion litres of ethanol produced in 2021, 50.4% was from corn, 21.8% from wheat, 14.5% from sugars, and 3% from other cereals and starch-rich crops.

European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) members produced more feed than fuel in 2021, according to certified data released on September 6, 2022, by the industry association. The latest statistics from ePURE members include significant production of feed, confirming the importance of domestic ethanol biorefineries to food security and energy independence.

ePURE represents 39 members (including 20 producers) with around 50 biorefineries across the EU-27 and UK. The statistics were compiled from ePURE members and certified by auditing firm Copartner.

ePURE members – representing 85 percent of EU installed ethanol production capacity – produced 4.48 million tonnes of animal feed co-products and 4.40 million tonnes of renewable ethanol last year, according to the statistics.

Additional co-products included 1.05 million tonnes of captured biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), which replaces fossil CO2 in beverage and greenhouse applications.

Record GHG reduction performance

84.2 percent of the renewable ethanol produced was for fuel use. Of the remaining ethanol production, 9.4 percent was for industrial use including hand sanitizer, and 6.4 percent was for food and beverage use.

The audit also showed record-high greenhouse gas (GHG) saving performance of ePURE members’ ethanol – 77 percent on average compared to fossil gasoline (petrol) – making its use essential to transport decarbonization by reducing emissions from the petrol and hybrid cars that will predominate on Europe’s roads for many years.

European feedstock on 1 % of total arable land

All of the crops used in ePURE members’ biorefineries were grown by European farmers.

Yet, ePURE members’ ethanol production in 2021 required less than 1.8 million hectares (Mha) of European arable land, equivalent to only 1.7 percent of the total arable land of EU27 and the UK – more than 3 times less than the current area of set-aside and fallow land in the EU27.

The land use for ethanol crops is even more negligible when factoring in the co-production of animal feed together with renewable ethanol.

Out of the 1.8 Mha, only about 1.1 Mha is attributable to the sole production of ethanol, which is 1 percent of the total arable land of EU27 + UK.

These new figures confirm that when it comes to European renewable ethanol, the ‘food vs fuel’ myth is, and always has been, false, said David Carpintero, Director General of ePURE.

EU biorefineries turn sustainably grown European crops and residues into food, feed, and renewable fuel. Capping the use of such sustainable crop-based biofuels would have dire consequences for Europe’s goals for energy independence, food security, and emissions reduction, ended David Carpintero.

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