Europe’s ethanol sector has a high potential for further production with low indirect land use change (ILUC) impacts.
Responsible land use for ethanol production does not impact the amount of food available for human consumption and has a minimal impact on global land conversion. The crops used to produce ethanol in Europe meet the highest environmental sustainability standards in the world. In addition, by generating high-protein animal feed as a co-product of ethanol, our companies reduce the need for European farmers to use imported animal feed, such as soya, which requires large amounts of land outside of Europe.
To qualify for use towards Europe’s 2020 targets – the 10% target for renewable energy use in transport and the 6% reduction target for the GHG intensity of transport fuels – the biofuels our companies produce must comply with strict sustainability criteria regarding land use. In addition, the European Commission reports on the impact of ethanol production on food availability, compliance with land use rights and international labour conventions.
For every tonne of cereals used by our industry as much animal feed is produced as ethanol. In 2015 our companies produced 5.9 million tonnes of co-products, of which 4.9 million tonnes was highly valuable high-protein, GMO-free animal feed. This animal feed was enough protein to feed more than 2 million dairy cows, 10% of the EU dairy herd. It also displaced nearly 10% of Europe’s soybean and soybean meal imports by volume.
Reducing imports of animal feed improves Europe’s environmental footprint and helps reduce land conversion and GHG emissions resulting from agricultural land use outside of Europe.
In Europe, renewable ethanol production has limited land use impacts. But recent concerns over the risk of land displacement for food production caused by the production of feedstocks for biofuels, means our industry is ready to asses how best to strengthen its commitment to sustainable land use. In Europe, farmland that has low agricultural productivity or has been abandoned can provide suitable locations to grow crops for renewable ethanol production.
A 2014 study by the University of Utrecht found that ILUC risks can be mitigated through agricultural yield increases and when unused land is used to grow crops for biofuels production. Ethanol produced on these types of farmland has low-ILUC impacts and strengthens our sector’s contribution to environmental sustainability even further.
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