So long, ethanol

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.

5 comments

  1. What a loss of opportunity:
    * Revenue for local producers
    * Jobs for local workers
    * Reduction of dependance upon foreign oil and exporting our GDP
    * Opportunity to develop a centre of excellence in conversion kits that could be exported to Europe.

    My car ran A LOT better on e85. Very shortsighted view by the government in what seems to be an effort to just support the tax base.

    e85 isn’t just about being GREEN or low emissions. I hope you’re reading this Leo Varadkar – this is an opportunity you can grab with both hands.

    BTW, did I mention that it’s a sham that Irish motorists are being herded in to buying new cars every few years? from an emissions point of view that certainly doesn’t make sense.

  2. Dear Conor,

    I am writing about the withdrawal of E85 from the Irish market over a year ago now .

    Could the AA raise the issue again with the current government ?

    I have a Ford Focus Flexifuel and always filled the car with E85 -even tho it was difficult at times to source it. I only used petrol in small quantities when absolutely necessary. I am now forced to use it all the time.

    From both an Environmental impact re emmissions, the potential to create jobs and use by products etc.. it appears to me to be a ‘no brainer’ on the governments behalf to reintroduce the derogation from excise duty on this fuel

    Many thanks

    Finola Thompson

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