Food, Feed and Fuel for the EU

Realising the potential of renewable ethanol biorefineries for a more autonomous Europe

By David Carpintero

David Caprintero is the Director General of ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association.

03 Apr 2024

The last few years of EU climate and energy policy have demonstrated more than ever that Europe needs a new way to think about biofuels and their contribution to transport defossilisation.  

As the EU enters a new political cycle, the European renewable ethanol industry will be working along with a wide range of stakeholders in the biofuels and food and feed value chains to help build awareness of the strategic importance of renewable ethanol production. 

Did you know that EU ethanol biorefineries… 

1. ...reduce CO₂ emissions in transport 

Bioethanol is a sustainable fuel alternative that reduces GHG emissions from petrol and hybrid cars and is the most available and affordable alternative to fossil fuels. Since internal combustion cars will remain in the majority on EU roads in 2030-2040, bioethanol helps the EU meet its climate objectives in a socially inclusive manner. 

2. European farmers and boost food security 

EU biorefineries convert multi-purpose crops and agricultural waste from European farmers into renewable fuel, high-quality animal feed and food and other valuable by-products. Since the EU currently depends on imports of high-protein animal feed, it would benefit from greater production of domestic feed from these ethanol biorefineries. This ensures robust markets for European farmers and boosts EU energy independence and food security. 

3. ...lessen Europe’s dependence on imported oil 

EU transport is still more than 92% reliant on fossil oil. Sustainable biofuels such as renewable ethanol are the most immediate, cost-effective and socially inclusive way to reduce this dependence. On top of its proven GHG-emission-reduction performance, renewable ethanol is a strategic asset that contributes to EU energy independence. 

4. ...complement strategically vital European industries 

Along with renewable fuel, food and animal feed, ethanol biorefineries also produce alcohol for industrial, medical and beverage applications, as well as biogenic CO₂ for fizzy drinks, plant greenhouses and the future production of e-fuels. 

Here are just a few ways the EU can act now to better achieve Green Deal ambitions: 

  • The EU approach to emissions-reduction should be open to all technologies 

When the EU revisits this policy in 2026, it should measure all technologies by their actual life-cycle emissions and create more flexibility to include solutions that work.  

  • All CO₂ neutral fuels should be recognised for current and new vehicles after 2035 

All RED-compliant renewable ethanol should be included in the definition of CO₂-neutral fuels, providing alternatives needed alongside electrification to reach ambitious EU targets. 

  • The EU approach to bioethanol should be consistent and coherent in all legislation 

EU ethanol biorefineries – which simultaneously produce food, high-protein animal feed and renewable fuel – should be recognised for their importance in achieving the EU Protein Strategy. 

  • The EU’s Protein Strategy should recognise the potential contribution of biorefineries 

EU ethanol biorefineries – which simultaneously produce food, high-protein animal feed and renewable fuel – should be recognised for their importance in achieving the EU Protein Strategy. 

  • The EU should encourage transformation of biogenic CO₂ into a valuable resource 

The EU should safeguard emission credits allowed to biofuels operators capturing biogenic CO₂ and maintain the incentive for ethanol producers to invest in CO₂ capture. 

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