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EU transportation sector still overly dependant on fossil fuels

The European Union (EU) transportation sector is still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. In 2017, 93 percent of final energy consumption in transportation – road, rail, sea or air – was fossil fuel based accounting for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to a new report published by Bioenergy Europe with input from the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE).

In 2017, oil represented 93% of final energy consumption in EU transport while low-emission and renewable solutions still accounted for only 5% despite the record volumes. The highest contribution to renewable energy in transportation is covered by sustainable biofuels and biomethane, about 89% of renewable energy in transport (graphic courtesy Bioenergy Europe).

Organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) have pointed out that the European Union (EU) will have to greatly increase its usage of bioenergy to have any real success at decarbonizing the European economy and shifting to a low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mobility infrastructure.

Biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel are certainly part of the solution, they have been around for a while and are among the most efficient tools Europe has in the fight against climate change. The findings, in a new report from Bioenergy Europe with input from European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), once again highlight the need for urgent action to decarbonise European transport with a prompt shift to low-emission mobility.

According to the 2019 Report on Biofuels for Transport, “biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel are effective at curbing GHG emissions and require no major vehicle or infrastructure changes, and should be “allowed to play a much larger role in decarbonisation.” The European biofuel industry is described as “a very well-oiled cog” of the circular economy mechanisms.

For instance, the use of animal fats and used cooking oil (UCO) to produce biodiesel or HVO has grown exponentially, representing 25 percent of the overall biodiesel/HVO production. The biorefinery model, with oilseed and grain crops producing renewable ethanol and diesel fuels, high-protein animal feed, and captured carbon dioxide (CO2), is one that should be more widely adopted.

The report makes several recommendations for a shift in EU renewable energy policy, including:

  • Recognise the important role of biofuels in transport decarbonisation now and in the decades to come. While all available alternative fuel options will be needed to decarbonise the EU transport sector, conventional biofuels are already contributing with no systemic or fleet change required. In the future, the combination of renewable electricity-based, biofuels, and other low-carbon solutions will curb the current high level of GHG emissions.
  • Ensure R&D incentives and support to accelerate market deployment of advanced biofuels keeping in mind that companies support their investments in advanced biofuels through the production of conventional biofuels.
  • Ensure investment predictability and guarantee continuity by reflecting the recent Renewable Energy Directive (RED) provisions and sustainability criteria in any long-term policy. Regulatory consistency will help mobilise the investments needed to meet the EU’s long-term decarbonisation objectives.
  • Revise the Energy Taxation Directive to be in line with EU climate and energy policy, promoting, for example, a carbon tax on fossil fuels. The current Energy taxation’s volume-based approach has led to the detrimental situation in which fossil fuels are taxed at lower rates than their low-carbon and renewable alternatives.

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