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.

The latest updates


Renewables key to growth

Publication | February 2, 2011 at 0:00

A 2 page briefing to accompany Europe's first energy summit. It gives facts and figures on the global boom in renewables and the need for European investment away from nuclear towards renewables.

The economic effects of a more ambitious EU carbon target in Hungary

Publication | January 21, 2011 at 16:34

A report on the costs and benefits for Hungary of moving to a 30 percent carbon target by 2020.

Steering clear of oil disasters

Publication | October 20, 2010 at 0:00

Greenpeace EU’s independent report demonstrates that if the EU set a series of progressive CO2 emission standards for cars and vans up to 2030, oil consumption in Europe would fall by eight percent by 2030, compared to business as usual. This...

EU Energy [R]evolution - Towards a fully renewable energy supply in the EU27

Publication | July 8, 2010 at 0:00

The energy debate has moved to the top of the agenda across the social, political and economic spectrum. Energy is the lifeblood of the economy, but Europe’s current energy model fails to guarantee a secure, sustainable and affordable supply...

Moving to a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU - Greenpeace policy...

Publication | May 25, 2010 at 0:00

On 26 May the European Commission is expected to launch a new communication (‘Unlocking Europe's potential in clean innovation and growth: Analysis of options to move beyond 20%’) exploring the feasibility for the EU to increase its greenhouse...

Industry myths blocking an EU 30% emissions cut

Publication | May 25, 2010 at 0:00

Industry lobbyists opposed to stronger climate and energy policies have claimed for some time that an upgrade of the EU’s 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target from 20% to 30% would not be possible without cuts in industrial production...

Lowering the bar: how the car industry can improve efficiency targets

Publication | May 20, 2010 at 12:52

Transport is the fastest growing sector for greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. In 2007, transport accounted for 28% of the EU’s overall emissions and passenger cars are responsible for over half of these. Recognising the problem, European...

Lowering the bar: options for the automotive industry to achieve 80g/km CO2 by 2020...

Publication | May 20, 2010 at 12:48

In April 2009, the EU adopted Regulation 443/2009 which establishes a CO2 emission target of 130 gramme per kilometre (g/km) for the average of new cars sold by 2015, with an over-arching target of 120 g/km for the entire average new car fleet...

Green power for electric cars - Harvesting the climate potential of electric vehicles

Publication | February 8, 2010 at 8:03

The study finds that electric vehicles can in principle substantially contribute to decarbonising road passenger transport. However, increasing the number of electric vehicles without a change in current legislation could result in: an increase...

EU Copenhagen accord submission

Publication | January 28, 2010 at 13:28

EU letter to the UN climate secretariat on EU emissions reduction pledges for 2020 under the Copenhagen accord.

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