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


Greenpeace assessment of the Copenhagen Accord

Publication | January 7, 2010 at 0:00

This document is Greenpeace's interim assessment of the Copenhagen Accord, the outcome of the UN Copenhagan climate conference which took place over two weeks in December 2009. The conference gathered together world leaders who failed to produce...

Cheating the atmosphere

Publication | November 16, 2009 at 17:28

Why the EU can do much more for the climate

Letter to Barroso on vans legislation

Publication | October 26, 2009 at 0:00

This letter was sent jointly by Greenpeace and T&E to President Barroso. It urges him to support ambitious legislation to reduce CO2 emissions from light commercial vehicles before the end of the current Commission.

Working for the climate

Publication | September 14, 2009 at 0:00

'Working for the Climate: Renewable Energy & The Green Job [R]evolution' is based on Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution report and research from the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the Sydney University of Technology. The report shows...

Greenpeace Climate Vision

Publication | May 27, 2009 at 16:24

This document describes Greenpeace's vision as to how to prevent dangerous climate change. Starting from a short analysis of the causes, current impacts and future risks of climate change, we discuss the temperature rise and emission reduction...

MEPs must exercise their democratic power and reject the EU’s ‘effort sharing’ law

Publication | December 16, 2008 at 0:00

Members of the European Parliament voting tomorrow (Wednesday 17 December) in Strasbourg to adopt the EU climate package should reject the current flawed compromise for the effort sharing law.

Analysis of the EU standard on car emissions

Publication | December 1, 2008 at 0:00

The EU’s first standard on CO2 emissions from passenger cars has beed devised to never reach its stated objective of an average 130 grams CO2 per kilometre from new cars.

A week ahead of Poznan - where is Europe’s climate leadership?

Publication | November 25, 2008 at 0:00

In a week’s time Europe’s Environment Ministers will go to Poznan to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP14), a crucial milestone in negotiations for a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012. The EU’s energy...

CO2 from cars – the Council position on car emissions

Publication | November 18, 2008 at 0:00

If all the loopholes proposed in Council were adopted, the first-ever EU standard on CO2 emissions from passenger cars would never reach its stated objective of an average 130 grams CO2 per kilometre.

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