UK unveils first bioethanol plant

Food

Norfolk plant to use locally grown sugar beet to produce 70 million liters of bioethanol.

The UK last week launched its first bioethanol plant in a bid to reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources and cut carbon emissions. The operation in Wissington, Norfolk, uses energy derived from sugar beet to power road vehicles - avoiding the need for petrol. It is expected to produce 60% less pollution than that created through the burning of fossil fuels and should deliver carbon savings equal to that pumped out by 35,000 to 40,000 cars a year. Food and farming minister Jeff Rooker said the plant would not only help the country meet its domestic and international climate change targets, but help create a lucrative biofuels industry. „We can tackle [climate change] by using the skills and innovation that are prevalent in the UK – this groundbreaking plant is a good example of this,” he said.

The plant, which is managed by British Sugar and is estimated to have cost around £200 million, will produce 70 million liters of bioethanol a year from 110,000 tons of locally grown sugar beet. However, despite relying on local crops the new plant is still likely to face some criticism from environmentalists who claim that diverting agricultural land to cultivate so-called energy crops can create or exacerbate environmental problems and push up food prices, particularly in the developing world. Several environmental groups have called for a moratorium on all biofuels and an end to government subsidies supporting the embryonic industry.

The United Nations recently warned that growing demand for biofuels has already led to food price inflation as vast swathes of agricultural land in countries such as the US and Brazil have been given over to corn and sugar for making ethanol. (businessgreen.com)

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