We’re hearing today that the UK has signed up to an EU directive requiring fuel suppliers to dilute petrol with environmentally-friendly alternatives. A new petrol, made from 10% ethanol (derived from corn), will arrive at fuel pumps later this year. Known as E10, the new fuel will be available alongside standard petrol, reports The Telegraph.
However, the move has been criticised by policy institute Chatham House. E10 could add approximately £80 to the average family’s fuel bill, the institute’s new survey suggests. The new fuel apparently does fewer miles to the gallon, while the high ethanol content could also damage the engines of older cars and motorbikes, melting some components, The Daily Mail asserts.
Author of the study Rob Bailey, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, has also warned that E10 petrol is not compatible with millions of older vehicles and could cause corrosion and drivability problems for vehicles of ten years or older
The Department for Transport estimates that up to 8.6m vehicles may not be compatible with the new fuel, while drivers could be confused by its arrival on forecourts unless pumps are clearly labelled and they know whether it is safe to use. Ministers have asked suppliers to delay the introduction of E10 to allow time for educating drivers and compiling a list of incompatible vehicles.
EU member states are obliged to ensure that 5% of fuel is renewable by 2014. This figure is due to increase to 10% by 2020. In order to meet this target, oil companies have chosen ethanol, which principally comes from the US.
A similar ‘green’ petrol was introduced in Germany two years ago and many drivers decided not to use it for fear of damaging their engines, and because they are uncertain about the wider environmental and social impacts of ethanol, Bailey explains. Snatching agricultural currently used for food production to grow fuel crops could also raise food prices.
The Chatham House study was funded by Olleco, a business which collects and refines waste cooking oil to be used as biodiesel in vehicles, which Bailey found was a better option for mixing with fuel than ethanol.