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.

Biofuels

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

 

Fixing EU biofuels policy

Blog entry by Sebastien Risso & Sini Harkki | September 9, 2013

The biofuel policy of the European Union is at a crossroads. Currently, an EU law mandates the use of biofuels largely made up of food crops that, instead of reducing emissions, have been shown to increase them. In trying to extinguish...

Food, fuel, forests and climate – the biofuels conundrum

Blog entry by Sini Harkki | October 18, 2012

Fossil fuels are killing our climate and we need to find alternatives. It’s a simple message that most people get, but what happens when one of the supposed alternatives also becomes not just a climate killer, but a driver of hunger?

The dirty secret under VW's Brussels bonnet

Blog entry by Franziska Achterberg | September 20, 2012

Well this must be embarrassing. As you know, Europe’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen has been saying it wants to become the most environmentally-friendly car company in the world. But in reality the managers of VW want to do as little...

Car giant to exceed EU targets, but will it rein in the lobbyists?

Blog entry by Franziska Achterberg | March 15, 2012

Last week Volkswagen announced improvements to its new cars that will reduce their emissions by enough to beat existing EU legislation. Are we surprised? Are we stunned? Not really. It’s not the success we are looking for, we’re...

End of the road for dirty biofuels

Blog entry by Kees Kodde | February 3, 2012

It’s been a bad few weeks for biofuels produced from food crops: first, the US Environmental Protection Agency said that  biodiesel made from palm oil will not count towards the country’s renewable fuels mandate  because they are...

Activists lock climate laggards out of business summit

Blog entry by Joris den Blanken | May 18, 2011

This morning in Brussels, more than 170 Greenpeace activists challenged companies in Europe to take more ambitious access on climate change by blocking access to delegates arriving at the European Business Summit: 'Europe in the...

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