EU— EU renewable ethanol refineries produced more animal feed than fuel in 2021, according to new data compiled by the European ethanol trade association (ePURE) and certified by Swiss auditing firm, Copartner.

Renewable ethanol is manufactured in a biorefinery by fermenting sugars into alcohol. In the EU, these sugars typically come from a variety of agricultural sources such as wheat, corn, barley, rye, triticale, and sugar beet.

Some 4.48 million tons of high-protein animal feed were produced thanks to the generation of ethanol in Europe, compared to 4.40 million tons of fuel.

The ethanol production process creates high-protein, GMO-free animal feed in addition to GHG-saving fuel ethanol and captured CO2. This domestic production is a win-win for Europe’s energy independence and food security.

The EU renewable ethanol industry’s important contribution to food security often goes overlooked or misrepresented in the debate over biofuels which has ben reignited by the food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.

Green NGOs have portrayed the production of crop-based biofuels as problematic on both environmental and food security grounds, using food shortages experienced in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine to demand an end to crop-based biofuels.

T&E are among a group of NGOs calling on EU governments to immediately ban feed crops for biofuel production, warning that continuing to do so may lead food prices “to spiral out of control”.

Ethanol and biodiesel produced from agricultural crops have negative impacts on climate and the environment. As the UN reports, the war in Ukraine has exacerbated steadily rising global food prices, worsening the situation around food security,” Laura Buffet, energy director at the green NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), told EURACTIV.

Le Monde recently published an op-ed by David Laborde, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Christopher Gouel, research director at French public research institute INRAE and scientific advisor at CEPII. 

The authors claimed that the loss of Ukrainian agricultural production can be partly compensated by ceasing to support biofuels. The climate benefit of biofuels is much lower than originally thought, they added.

The ethanol industry has rebutted these accusations, arguing that biofuels not only lessen the need for imported fossil fuels, but that the protein feed for animals yielded from the production process bolsters food security.

In fact, according to ePURE data, the level of greenhouse gas emission reduction of EU-produced ethanol compared to fossil gasoline hit a new high, reaching 76.9%.

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