In his latest column, High Peak MP Robert Largan talks about improving global food security, increasing electric vehicle uptake and reducing costs for consumers.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left millions at risk of starvation.
Before the war, Ukraine exported around six million tons of grain to countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. As a result of Russia’s blockade, it is estimated that just 15 to 20 percent of this volume can be exported.
This has the potential to increase levels of global poverty, food insecurity, and social stability – particularly in poorer countries.
At a meeting of the G7 earlier this month, the UK presented a credible plan to alleviate rocketing global food prices by repurposing land currently used to grow crops for cars to produce food for people.
While an agreement proved elusive, outside of the EU we have the freedom to reduce our consumption of energy crops independently. This would boost food supplies and reduce costs for motorists.
In addition, if we increased the uptake of electric vehicles, carbon emissions could be cut faster, and the UK could reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Bioethanol is produced from plants and is used as an alternative to petrol. Rules on green transport fuels mean a tenth of the petrol sold at UK forecourts is bioethanol - known as E10.
The ethanol content in petrol was doubled by the Government last year to reduce vehicle emissions, at a projected cost to consumers of £23 billion over the next decade.
Just under 36 thousand hectares of UK crops were converted to biofuels in 2020. Instead, we could use the land required to meet the UK’s bioethanol demand to boost domestic food production and feed around 3.5 million people a year.
Reformulating unleaded petrol to contain less biofuel could cut prices at the pump too. Bioethanol accounts for almost 13 pence per litre of petrol, and the cost has risen with grain prices. What’s more, ethanol is less efficient than regular unleaded petrol, so drivers using E10 may need to fill up their tank more frequently.
As the trade-offs for food security and fuel prices become increasingly acute, the case for batteries over biofuels has become ever more compelling. With zero emission cars becoming cheaper, electrification now provides a cost-effective route to meeting our climate goals.
By suspending the requirement on E10 fuel and setting more ambitious targets for electric vehicles, we can improve global food security, reduce consumer costs and defund Putin’s war machine.