About ePURE

Trade & Customs

Global ethanol production is highly concentrated in just a few regions. Of the just over 100 billion litres produced every year, over three-quarters is in the United States and Brazil alone. The European Union is the third largest ethanol producer in the world, but accounts for only about 5% of global ethanol production.

Domestic ethanol industries have generally developed because of national policies that drive demand. As a result, most ethanol is consumed in the country where it is produced. An estimated 10% of global production is traded cross-border. Naturally, the export market is also dominated by the United States and Brazil, which account for over two-thirds of global ethanol trade. The remainder is made up of a larger number of smaller producers.

A balanced approach to ethanol trade is needed

The EU renewable ethanol industry's approach to ethanol trade is guided by the following principles:

  • Globally, most ethanol is produced within the framework of national biofuels programmes and benefits from a variety of different political and economic support mechanisms. Discrepancies in these support mechanisms provoke competition issues that need to be taken into account when negotiating trade agreements.
  • The EU cannot continue opening its market to third-country ethanol imports while also imposing restrictive renewable energy policies that limit the uptake of conventional biofuels in transport.
  • Renewable ethanol production is vitally important because it contributes to reducing GHG emissions and energy dependency, and is a source of job creation in many sectors of the economy, including agriculture. But to make the most of these benefits, renewable ethanol production should be encouraged only in areas where it is produced sustainably and primarily for domestic use. 

The trade of ethanol and the domestic production and consumption of ethanol should be balanced in such a way that the goals of addressing climate change, supporting energy independence and creating long-term employment can be achieved. In the absence of such a balance, these goals could well be undermined. With trade on the one hand and local production and consumption regimes on the other, striking a balance between the two is the only way to create a win-win situation for Europe and the rest of the world.