Sales of Statoil's E85 biofuel grew by 270% in Sweden last year compared with 2005, the Norwegian oil giant has revealed in a statement.

Svenska Statoil’s petrol stations sold 19.5 million liters of E85 in 2006. The oil firm currently offers biofuel at 170 of its sites in Sweden and this network will be expanded through the addition of another 90 outlets over the coming year.

Our commitment to renewable motor fuels is long term and an increasingly important part of our product portfolio, commented Helena Fornstedt, public affairs head at Svenska Statoil.

Continued expansion during the coming year depends on the price picture for this fuel compared with conventional petrol and whether even more Swedes buy ‘environmental’ cars, Ms Fornstedt added.

According to the Statoil statement, a total of 36,711 ‘environmental cars’ were purchased in Sweden during 2006, an increase of 156% on the previous year. They represented 13.5% of all newly-registered cars in the country, which was an increase on just 5.2% in 2005.

Therefore the trend appears to be a positive one. However, Statoil argues that legislative support is still needed, in the form of lower excise duties, free parking spaces and the waiving of road tolls, to underpin the fledgling fuel.

We want filling up with biofuel to remain an advantage, and hope the government will work to get the protective European toll on ethanol lifted as soon as possible, concluded Ms Fornstedt.