In the medium term this means biodiesel and ethanol. The eventual extent of production in the UK will depend upon the mineral oil price and excise duty exemptions to make renewables competitive with mineral oil sources. The mineral oil price has risen sharply in recent months (Brent Crude high was $67/barrel) and pundits consider that it is unlikely to return to $40 per barrel, the price pre December 2004 (www.bbc.co.uk/market data/commodities). A high mineral oil price makes biofuel more competitive. The Treasury has made a concession of 20p/l in favour of biofuel. The technology for bioethanol production by fermentation is well proven and is the method used throughout the world. Beet is a good feed-stock because it stores sugar which is directly used as the yeast substrate: starchy materials like wheat or maize have to be pre-treated to convert starch to a simple fermentable sugar, and this adds a cost.
Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry
If the outcome of the EU sugar regime is such that the UK continues to produce beet sugar to a quota of about 1.2Mt, then the only prospect of a large biofuel-from-beet industry comes from an increased throughput for the existing slice and juice extraction capacity. This means extending the campaign. The current start time (mid September) cannot move forward because the soil is likely to be too hard for efficient harvesting and the yield and quality are far from optimal.