One of the last acts of the FF-Green government was the quiet withdrawal of the duty derogation for E85, the 85% ethanol, 15% petrol mix sold in limited quantities to those with “flexifuel” engines.
The loss of this derogation meant that the sub-€1 price of a litre of E85 jumped to a figure higher than that of petrol itself, meaning the one concrete advantage E85 had for the consumer – its lower price – was obliterated overnight.
The reasons for this are unclear. Barely 8,000 cars capable of running on E85 are on Irish roads and even if every one of them used nothing but E85 (unlikely due to its relative rarity on Irish forecourts), the impact on the tax take would be minimal. The environmental impact is less too; not only does ethanol produce less CO2, but the plants that are used in the production of ethanol actually absorb CO2 as well. The more demand there is of ethanol, the more of these plants would be needed.
But even if the environmental argument isn’t enough, how about the simple fact that the ethanol for E85 could be produced in Ireland? Already the farmers who were once part of Ireland’s dormant sugar industry are looking into the possibility of producing beet sugar again for this purpose. Brazil took this view in the 1970s and is now the world’s biggest ethanol exporter. The possibilities are only just being realised.
However, thanks to the loss of the E85 duty derogation, Maxol – once the biggest proponents of E85 – have begun to withdraw it from the Irish market. Once their stocks run dry (probably by the end of March), there’ll be little or no places to buy E85, even if you wanted to pay the premium. So the owners of E85-compatible vehicles will go back to petrol and for now, the E85 story in Ireland has come to an end.