The European renewable ethanol industry is a sustainable and innovative building block of the bioeconomy, which is creating new markets and employment opportunities, not only for Europe’s farmers but also for high-tech jobs in rural areas.
Since 2003, the renewable ethanol industry has created and sustained 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in Europe. Many of these jobs are in Europe’s bioeconomy, supporting rural development in some of the poorer parts of the EU. Europe’s bioeconomy now has a turnover of nearly €2 trillion and employs more than 22 million people, accounting for 9 % of total employment in the EU.
Europe’s biorefineries offer the opportunity to build a deeply engrained new economic system in the countryside. And because they use agricultural biomass in almost all cases, the vast majority of Europe’s biorefineries are in rural areas, from the UK to Romania. 99% of the feedstock used in Europe’s biorefineries in 2015 was grown in Europe (although this still represents only 2% of Europe’s grain use).
Every new biorefinery creates approximately 100 direct jobs, but up to 1,000 more in maintenance, delivery and transport and all other ancillary services. Highly-skilled ‘green’ jobs, direct and indirect, are created by processes which use agricultural resources extremely efficiently to produce a wide range of products including fuel, animal feed, food and beverage ingredients, bio-based energy and chemicals.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has reported that the production of ethanol can be highly beneficial in improving farmers’ incomes and economies. Ethanol biorefineries create additional and regular income streams for farmers which in turn can be used to improve agricultural yields and efficiency, by mechanising, purchasing better quality seeds and improving farming methods. Crucially, this means that production from existing farmland is improved dramatically, allowing us to meet fuel and food needs without having to bring more land into production or displacing food crops.
The income benefits and the resource efficiency of Europe’s biorefineries will be further increased by advanced production technologies that enable production and create value for farmers from wider range of feedstocks, including cellulosic and other agricultural residues.
Ethanol biorefineries offer the potential for a step-change in European agriculture, helping to solidify and develop rural economies, create high quality and secure jobs and opportunities in countryside areas and protect Europe’s wonderful rural landscapes.
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