Millions of drivers have been warned about higher fuel costs and even engine damage if they use a new ‘green’ petrol.
Britain has signed up to an EU directive which says suppliers must dilute petrol with environmentally-friendly alternatives such as ethanol made from corn.
The new petrol is called E10 and is 10 per cent ethanol. It is due to be launched in the UK later this year, alongside standard petrol and other green fuels.
However, a study today warns E10 gives fewer miles to the gallon, so a typical family will pay around £80 a year extra to travel the same distance.
There are also fears that the high ethanol content can effectively melt components of some engines in older cars and motorbikes.
The move to E10 is part of a wider policy to cut the use of fossil fuels and so reduce their contribution to the creation of greenhouse gases and global warming.
A study by respected think-tank Chatham House warns: ‘The increased use of ethanol in petrol to meet EU sustainability targets is resulting in drivers paying extra at the pump.’
The EU’s Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation requires 5 per cent of the fuel supply of member states to be renewable by 2014.
This is due to increase in the next seven years under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, which requires 10 per cent of transport energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Oil companies have decided to use ethanol as this renewable source. Most comes from the US, where it is made from corn, while some comes from Brazil’s sugar cane and a small amount from British sugar beet.
However, using petrol diluted with ethanol generally cuts a vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
The report calculates that if the EU policy of supplying 10 per cent of transport energy from renewable sources had been applied in the UK in 2011-12, it would have cost motorists some £1.5billion, or around £80 a year more per family.