Greener, lower emission fuels may soon be the norm in the UK as the government consults on plans to introduce E10, a blend of petrol and biofuel already being used in countries across Europe.
Made up of 10 percent ethanol, an announcement by Transport Secretary, Grant Schapps, claims that the change could see the same impact on CO2 emissions as taking roughly 350,000 cars off the road.
The potential introduction of this new blended fuel would be an interim step for the UK where plans are being made to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars within the next 15 years as part of a move to “decarbonise” transport.
“Before electric cars become the norm, we want to take advantage of reduced CO2 emissions today,” said Schapps, “This small switch to petrol containing bioethanol at 10% will help drivers across the country reduce the environmental impact of every journey.”
What exactly is bioethanol?
Bioethanol is a form of alcohol that can be produced from crops like wheat or corn. It is the most widely used form of biofuel in the world. Just like making beers and wines, the crops are fermented together with microorganisms which eat the sugars and starches and turn them into alcohol. Advocates also point to the potential for the crops used to capture CO2 and offset emissions.
Surrounded by the ocean, there is another possible source to feed the UK’s fuel evolution; seaweed. The slimy relative of algae is naturally high in the sugars need to make alcohol and can easily be fermented to make biofuels. Growing seaweed doesn’t require land, freshwater or fertilisers either making its potential environmental impact minimal says the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS) who are currently researching the possibility of using it as a green fuel source.
Bioethanol fuels across Europe
Across Europe, a number of countries have been using the E10 blend for years. The fuel was introduced to France in 2009 where it has proved a consistently popular option for French motorists rising in popularity year on year thanks to tax breaks according to . Other countries to have adopted E10 include Germany, Belgium, and Finland driven by EU targets for renewable fuel sources.
Brazil is the world’s biggest biofuel user and second-largest producer mixing its petrol with up to 27 per cent ethanol. Most modern cars are able to deal with up the 10 percent ethanol content proposed by the UK Government, but new cars in the South American country have been completely fuel-flexible since 2003. That means they can run on a fuel made of anything up to 100 percent ethanol if needed.