The next Irish government has been called on to help reduce the level of carbon emissions coming from the transport sector – by doubling the amount of ethanol being blended into petrol in Ireland from 5% to 10%.

Making the call, EU climate policy analyst with Irish-owned bioenergy firm Ethanol Europe James Cogan, outlined that, while the transition from fossil fuel to electric vehicles is taking much of the limelight at present, increasing the level of biofuel in the national petrol mix will help make a difference and accelerate change.

In an in-depth interview with AgriLand, the policy analyst with Ethanol Europe – now also known as Pannonia Bio – said:

Europe still has a lot of petrol cars knocking around and about half of the cars in Europe are petrol. It’s the same in Ireland; even though more than half of the fleet is diesel, if you look at the passenger car fleet only, about half of Ireland’s cars are petrol.

“That’s about a million petrol vehicles in Ireland – and that proportion is pretty much the same across Europe.

“There is a huge effort going on now in Europe to reduce the carbon footprint of transport generally, and clearly most of the attention is focused on the transition of the fleet to electrics,” he said.

“But, given that Ireland has a fleet of 2.7 million vehicles on the road and virtually every single one of them is diesel or petrol, electrics aren’t going to make any contributions in the existing fleet.

You’ve got to look at something that will make the carbon footprint of the existing fleet come down.

Cogan highlighted that this can be done through blending good biofuels – with ethanol the only suitable biofuel for a petrol car.

Continuing, he explained: “Our target market in the actual application is the petrol car fleet in Europe. On average already, the petrol car in Europe uses 5% ethanol and in Ireland it’s 5%. Some countries have much higher, others have a bit lower but the average works out at 5%.

“What they simply do is before the petrol is delivered out to the petrol stations they blend in 5% of ethanol into it or 10% or 12% depending on the country or the region.

That portion of the petrol then is not contributing to the carbon emissions out of those vehicles.

“It also makes the engines run a bit more cleaner as well so you’ve got slightly cleaner tailpipe emissions as well,” Cogan said.

“If we were a bioenergy positive country, we’d be switching to 10% ethanol in our petrol instantly – because most other countries have already done it, it works, it doesn’t cost any more than sticking with regular petrol, and it’s good for the climate and good for air quality.”

Ethanol Europe

Ethanol Europe, also known as Pannonia Bio, is an Irish-owned and founded company.

Established in 2009, the firm is now one of Europe’s biggest producers of ethanol, producing between 7% and 8% of Europe’s total ethanol output.

Following the construction of a large-scale production plant in Hungary – described as “Europe’s corn basket” – the company takes in over one million tonnes of maize each year from local tillage farmers.

It uses this to produce ethanol – as well as other products, including: high-grade, high-protein animal feed; fibre; vegetable oils; and other by-products.