The British bioethanol industry makes a contribution of over £1bn to the UK economy, directly employing over 300 jobs often in skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and manufacturing) roles, and supporting around 6,000 jobs through its supply chain and logistics. Its plants, primarily located in former Northern industrial communities, represent an investment of more than £500m and are vital to the region.
The industry works with British universities and other education providers to offer graduate programmes, apprenticeships and internships, whilst also supporting these institutions through research and development funding.
The industry contributes to an efficient 'circular economy' by primarily using British feedstock, producing animal feed for British farms and selling bioethanol which could help to fulfil the British market. The bioethanol produced here is used both domestically and internationally.
The industry has however struggled in recent years, due to delays in decision making regarding the level of bioethanol within transport fuels. Without swift action, the industry risks closure and job losses, whilst also sending a negative message to future investors in renewable energy.
Bioethanol is a low carbon, renewable source of energy used in transport fuels to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. It is made from feedstocks such as wheat or sugar beet and is renewable because it can be constantly regrown, in contrast to fossil fuels which are finite and release damaging greenhouse gases when burnt. It can be used to displace oil in petrol by blending different proportions of the two liquids together before the consumer uses it to fill their vehicle.
Ethanol was the first ever road transport fuel, and prior to fossil fuels such as oil becoming commonplace as a source of energy, ethanol was one of the primary ways to power vehicles such as cars. Indeed, the Model T Ford ran on ethanol.
Within the UK both regular and premium petrol uses a blend which contains up to 5% bioethanol (known as E5). Many countries throughout the world use a 10% blend (E10) which displaces a further 5% of oil, helping to lower harmful emissions. In fact in some countries such as the USA and Brazil, blends as high as 85% are available for consumers, offering even greater carbon savings.
Due to its chemical composition, ethanol only mixes with petrol, not with diesel.