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The role of ethanol in Ireland’s climate action programme


16 Jul 2019


Report by economist Jim Power

Ethanol achieves high impact reductions in transport carbon emissions overnight

Cuts carbon emissions by 70% compared to petrol in the existing fleet

Has the lowest carbon abatement cost of all alternative fuels

E10 would cut emissions by 150,000 tonnes CO2eq, equivalent to taking out 50,000 cars

At no cost and no loss of revenue to the Exchequer and could save €25m in EU fines

Can be introduced overnight at no cost to consumers and no expensive infrastructure cost

Ireland should double the ethanol content of petrol from the current 5% to 10% as the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions from transport today, according to a new report The role of ethanol in Ireland’s climate action programme by economist Jim Power. Ethanol offers immediate savings of 70% in carbon emissions compared to petrol. The report was commissioned by Ethanol Europe, a renewables advocacy unit of the Irish agribusiness ClonBio Group.

“A simple Ministerial Order would introduce petrol with 10% ethanol (known as E10) and immediately bring carbon emission savings equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road tomorrow”, Mr Power said. “A transition to electric cars is an appropriate long-term response but it is a very long-term project.  Introducing E10 allows us to do something very substantial, right now”, he said.

Transport is the country’s biggest emitter of fossil carbon and these emissions are growing. Ireland’s progress towards its 2020 transport decarbonisation goal is effectively stalled.  To move towards a zero-carbon position, which includes the long-term transition to electric cars, it is essential that we take some steps that will make an immediate difference. “Ethanol provides a very compelling partial solution to Ireland’s transport targets”, the report says.

E10 is a petrol grade containing up to 10% ethanol by volume. It can be introduced overnight; it is suited to all petrol cars; it brings no cost to the consumer and no loss of revenue for the Exchequer; no requirement to change infrastructure or logistics; it would reduce fossil emissions by 150,000 tonnes CO2eq, which would be equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road; it would be good for the farm economy; and could reduce EU fines by €25 million.

E10 is already widely available in Belgium, Finland, France, Sweden and Germany, and is being introduced in other European countries. Ireland currently has 5% ethanol in its petrol, which was introduced without any adverse effects in 2005.

 “Under EU biofuels regulations, Ireland has 18 months to maximise its use of safe effective EU biofuels derived from crops and build them into the climate programme.”  After 2020 EU regulations will prevent Ireland raising biofuel use levels.  “The opportunity for introducing E10 will have passed, so Ireland should act now.”

The report concludes that

“It is difficult to understand why E10 is not accepted by the Irish Government as the way forward for Ireland’s transport climate obligations. It is the strongly held view of the author of this report that Ethanol should be accepted and taken on board as a solution for Ireland, and a solution that would have many positive direct and indirect effects.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Mark Turley, CEO of ClonBio Group said

“IPCC has projected far reaching deployment of both electrification and biofuels as essential for achieving the 1.5D target.  Ethanol offers immediate high impact carbon savings of 70% in liquid energy carriers by directly displacing fossil in the existing combustion fleet. With ethanol there is no loss of revenue to the exchequer, the lowest carbon abatement cost of alternative fuels and savings for taxpayers, motorists and the economy.”

In a foreword to the Power report, Brendan Halligan, President of the Institute of International and European Affairs says decarbonising transport will take at least three decades, and probably more.

 “The task of replacing a national transport fleet based on diesel and petrol is a gargantuan one and will take many decades to complete. Without the increased use of E10 there is no quick fix to hand, short of banning cars and trucks from the roads for defined periods.  Put in these terms, the case for E10 is utterly compelling and the mystery is why it has not been accepted and acted upon with the urgency the situation demands. Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action which opined that the failure to initiate solutions to climate change was more likely to arise from bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles than from technology.  The present failure to act on E10 would, indeed, appear to be an example.”

For further information contact:

Joe Murray                  086 2534950

Mark Brennock           01 4980300

July 16th, 2019


The report was prepared for Ethanol Europe by Jim Power Economics  and is titled “The role of ethanol in Ireland’s climate action programme”.  It contains a foreword by Brendan Halligan, President of the Institute of International and European Affairs

Ethanol Europe is a subsidiary of ClonBio Group, an Irish agribusiness that operates Europe’s largest grain based biorefinery located in Hungary.  The refinery produces sustainable ethanol, animal feed and corn oil from maize.  A range of new biotechnology products is under development.  The biorefinery was established and developed by Mark Turley Ethanol Europe engages with policy makers at national and international level in building a constructive regulatory environment to attract investment to the bioeconomy.


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