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Europe Mulls Turning Its Excess Wine into Bioethanol

Europe is contemplating turning its excess wine produce into bioethanol.

The European Commission is putting final touches to the plan.

Commission officials have, however, made it clear that this will be the last time the EU will subsidize such a move.

Michael Mann, commission spokesman for agriculture and rural development, has said the best thing to do would be to stop the excess wine from being made in the first place.

The European Union currently spends 1.3 billion euros a year supporting the wine industry. Up to seven percent of this, or 90 million euros, goes towards 'crisis distillation', where as much as 45 million litres of EU wine, often of undrinkably poor quality, is bought and distilled into ethanol for use as fuel.

Crisis distillation has occurred in four of the past six years.

Next Wednesday - the same day as the deadline for the tendering process, Commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Mariann Fischer Boel, will propose to the 27 member states that crisis distillation should be stopped, as part of a wider shake-up of the European wine industry.

"People make poor-quality wine because we have this safety net for them - it's just a disposal mechanism. It's not our intention that wine should be a basic raw material for biofuels," said Mann.

According to New Scientist, If Boel's proposal passes, producers would be encouraged to grow fewer grapes and stick to making high-quality wine.

"Over a five-year period uncompetitive producers would step out," said Mann, adding, that the move is expected to meet resistance, as winemaking is a major economic and emotional issue in Europe.


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