European biorefineries can play an important role in the transition to sustainability, although their benefits are often overshadowed by the food versus fuel controversy.

Renewable ethanol is an immediate homegrown solution to reduce Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions from transport. European renewable ethanol industry association ePURE estimates that switching all petrol cars in the EU to E10 fuel would have the same CO2 emission reduction effect as removing 8.2 million cars from the road.

In addition, European biorefineries contribute to Europe’s feed independence and food security. The association says that there is no “food versus fuel” conflict with ethanol as the industry in fact produces “food and fuel.” In 2022, ePURE members produced 5.9 million tonnes of food and feed co-products including high-protein animal feed, which exceeded their ethanol output of 4.5 million tonnes for the year. The industry is also a domestic source of biogenic CO2, which replaces fossil CO2 in beverage and greenhouse applications.

As the EU currently relies on imported high-protein animal feed, there are advantages in increasing the production of domestic feed from ethanol biorefineries. This would at the same time deliver stable income for European farmers, while helping to stabilise the agricultural commodity market.

The association says that European biorefineries use a small part of arable land without the risk of deforestation to simultaneously produce food, feed and renewable fuel. In 2018, the EU agricultural area used to grow crops for ethanol represented 2.2% of the EU’s arable land.

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