Food vs fuel: Vegetable oils in biofuels

June 22, 2022

Vegetable oils are being burned in cars despite empty supermarket shelves and skyrocketing prices.

In May 2022 European supermarkets began to announce the unthinkable. Vegetable oils would be rationed. The sight of bare shelves brought the war in Ukraine to consumers from London to Lisbon. Ukraine accounts for over 40% of global exports of sunflower oil and is also Europe’s largest external supplier of rapeseed oil. 

In a time of scarcity it becomes a question of priority. Restoring supply chains is crucial, but extremely challenging right now. Fortunately, there are simpler ways to alleviate at least the pressure on food supplies. Biofuels are a low hanging fruit governments should start with. T&E’s previous report looked at the amount of wheat and other cereals being wasted for ethanol blended into gasoline, while import dependent countries like Egypt and many other countries in Africa and the Middle East struggle to nourish their people. In this report T&E assesses key vegetable oils, especially sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.

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