A leading environmental campaigner has questioned the benefits of introducing what ministers have called an ‘eco-friendly’ petrol, arguing that a quicker switch to electric vehicles is a better way of tackling climate change.
The new E10 petrol - a mixture of petrol and ethanol made from materials including low-grade grains, sugars and waste wood – will be available for use on UK roads from September.
E10 is already available elsewhere in Europe
It contains up to 10% ethanol while the two petrol blends that are currently widely available in the UK contain no more than 5%.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said that the move will ‘boost the Government’s ambitions to reach net zero by 2050’, despite a plan to phase out petrol vehicles in the coming decades.
It said that ‘using bioethanol in place of traditional petrol can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and, therefore, increasing the ethanol content of petrol could help us meet our climate change targets’.
Officials said the move could cut transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year – ‘the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road, or all the cars in North Yorkshire’.
But Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, told Transport Network: ‘Measures sufficient to meet the climate crisis are essential, but they shouldn’t come at a cost to the wider ecological emergency.
‘Biofuels may cut carbon emissions in some cases, but certainly not all, and their use is likely to be at the expense of hastening biodiversity decline through displaced food production leading to damaging land-use change and rising food prices. A fast switch to electric vehicles is by far the best route for reducing emissions.’
He added: ‘We must address the climate, nature, and poverty crises as one; piecemeal measures that counteract each other is bad policy and ultimately potentially harmful, however well-meant.’
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘We’re going further and faster than ever to cut emissions from our roads, cleaning up our air as we accelerate towards a zero-emission transport future.
‘Although more and more motorists are driving electric vehicles, there are steps we can take to reduce emissions from the millions of vehicles already on our roads – the small switch to E10 petrol will help drivers across the country reduce the environmental impact of every journey, as we build back greener.’