Transport, oil and biofuels
As the era of easily accessible oil comes to an end, the world is approaching an energy crossroads. The EU could get ahead by driving efficiency and investing in technologies, such as electric vehicles, to get us beyond oil. Or it could continue relying on increasing amounts of fossil fuels that are getting ever more dirty, dangerous and expensive to extract.
Greenpeace activists drive a Flintstones-style car to the European Parliament. The stone age stunt was a reminder that the car industry is trapped in a 'dinosaur dynamic' of building ever-faster and increasingly powerful gas-guzzlers at the expense of the climate.
EU fuel efficiency standards
Transport accounts for about 60 percent of EU oil consumption, half of which goes into cars and vans. Fuel efficiency regulation drives innovation to benefit consumers and spur technological leadership, while bringing down oil demand. The EU has set standards for cars for 2015 and 2020 and for vans for 2017 and 2020. A review of both standards will take place before 2013 with new European Commission proposals. Greenpeace wants to see a 2025 standard of 60 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre for cars. In the past, carmakers have resisted such standards, even though history shows they are capable of great strides. Greenpeace is working to persuade regressive car companies like VW to live up to their rhetoric and support ambitious standards.
Fuel Quality Directive
Published in 2008, the Fuel Quality Directive sets a carbon reduction target of 6 percent by2020 for transport fuels sold in Europe. The devil is in the detail though and Greenpeace is working to ensure that implementation arrangements fulfil the aim of the directive. The Canadian government wants the EU to consider fuels made from tar sands the same as normal fuel, even though the European Commission’s own research by Stanford University shows it to be 23 percent more carbon polluting. The EU’s biggest ever trade deal hangs in the balance.
There are good and bad biofuels. Ones that are good for the environment have a significantly lower carbon footprint than conventional fuel without harmful side effects such as intensification of unsustainable agriculture, increase of water usage and pollution, or land-grabbing and land rights conflicts in developing countries. Preferably, they are made from genuine waste products and do not require land to produce. Bad biofuels damage the environment and put more carbon into the atmosphere. The EU’s renewable energy policies are a major driver of growth for harmful biofuels, which shows no sign of slowing. The EU has introduced sustainability requirements, but important issues like agricultural practices, bio-safety, water and soil quality and food security are not covered. They also ignore the indirect land use change (ILUC) effect of biofuels, a major problem. According to the European Commission's internal assessment, biodiesels from crops such as rapeseed, soy and palm oil have a higher carbon footprint than conventional fuels when emissions from ILUC are included. Legislation is the best and only reasonable way to prevent ILUC. Yet the Commission continues to delay legislation, protecting the entrenched interests of some producers who want to maintain access to large public subsidies although their contribution to climate change mitigation is nil or negligible.