In Europe, MEPs from different political groups have signed a petition asking the European Commission to remove barriers to the deployment of sustainable fuels and technologies in transport by reviewing the current tailpipe approach to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This, coupled with increased shares of green electricity, will ensure the swift decarbonization of the transport sector the signatories say.
The European Commission (EC) is expected to propose in June a revision of the carbon dioxide (CO2) standards for cars and vans. The MEPs who have co-signed this petition are calling on the EU Executive body for considering emissions along the whole well-to-wheel chain with a revision of critical pieces of EU legislation that will enable full deployment of sustainable fuels and vehicles: CO2 emission standards for new vehicles, Taxonomy on Sustainable Finance and Clean Vehicles Directive.
The development of clean mobility will be detrimental to reach climate neutrality. The sector needs to reduce its emissions by 90 percent by 2050 while ensuring that the EU transport industry remains competitive and that the transition to clean technologies leaves no one behind.
The EU needs cost-competitive fuels and technologies available right now to achieve this goal. According to the signatories, biomethane belongs to the most promising alternative fuels: it allows emissions reductions already in the short term and by 2030 and its production promotes the deployment of a circular bioeconomy.
We will not achieve carbon-neutrality without the decarbonization of the transport sector. Full deployment of all sustainable fuels and technologies, including biomethane, is needed to meet the growing demand for renewable and fossil free solutions, said MEP Jakop Dalunde, (Sweden – Greens/EFA Group and Member of the Transport Committee), one of the signatories of the petition.
Need to adopt a Well-to-wheel approach
When well-to-wheel emissions are taken into account, biomethane is clearly among the least emitting transport fuels. This approach considers the whole production and use cycles of the vehicles, compared to the current standard, which measures only tailpipe emissions.
The adoption of a well-to-wheel approach would ensure the recognition of the multiple environmental benefits of biomethane as a transport fuel. The ‘EU Strategy for Energy System Integration’ announced last year ‘opportunities for further targeted support to accelerate the development of the market for biofuels and biogases’.
However, considering only tailpipe emissions to measure the environmental impact of transport vehicles will hinder the development of sustainable fuels, rather than support them. Besides, until now, the tailpipe approach has not led to a reduction in transport emissions.
Biomethane must be recognized as one important means to reach the EU’s ambitious 2030 climate targets in transport. Its emissions are very low when measured over the whole lifecycle, from well to wheel. Seen in the context of circular economy biomethane gives even more benefits when produced from waste or residues. We call on the EU Commission to stop punishing biomethane and to adopt a truly technology-neutral approach, said MEP Heidi Hautala, (Finland – Greens/EFA Group) also a signatory.
The signatories point out that the tailpipe approach measures only part of the emissions produced, compared to a well-to-wheel approach that provides an estimation of the emissions produced over the entire lifetime of a vehicle.
As a consequence, vehicle manufacturers are discouraged by the current legislation from developing and offering cars and vans with Internal Combustion Engines (ICE’s), which are currently the most common technology. Instead of stopping ICE’s production, they could keep the technology and simply replace diesel or petrol with biomethane.
Infrastructure already available
Furthermore, this legislation makes it difficult for those Member States who drive truly technology-neutral transport policies, to support sustainable fuels as a part of the future fuel mix.
To ensure a truly energy sector integration, the deployment of renewable electricity should be coupled with the scale-up of sustainable fuels. E-mobility and general electrification of societies will increase rapidly in Europe over the next decades.
However, electricity, like gas, is only environmentally friendly when it comes from renewable sources. Therefore, the signatories say, political decisions should “encourage the deployment and growth of all clean technologies and this can only be ensured with a technology-neutral mindset.”
One of the big advantages of biomethane mobility highlighted is the current availability of the necessary infrastructure to enable a cost-competitive and swift deployment of sustainable vehicles and fuels without the need for significant investments.
According to NGVA Europe, the share of biomethane in the gas mix of the EU transport sector is increasing all around Europe and represents today 18 percent of the gas mix, reaching 50 percent in Germany, 59 percent in Finland, 90 percent in the Netherlands, and 95 percent in Sweden.
The European Biogas Association (EBA) expects that the annual production of biogas and its upgraded form, biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) in Europe, is expected to at least double by 2030, growing from nearly 200 TWh today to around 370-390 TWh.
If 117 TWh of this is deployed in the transport sector and the full gas fleet consumption is estimated to be around 300 TWh, the share of biomethane in the gas mix of the transport sector could increase to around 40 percent. This would create significant emission reductions already by 2030.
We must actively combine all the possible alternatives available for cutting transport emissions. Renewable biofuels are one of the readily deployable alternatives, which can be combined with the existing car fleet. Different types of sustainable biofuels have an important role to play especially in road transport in the short and medium-term, said MEP Henna Virkkunen (Finland – EPP Group and Member of the Transport Committee, and signatory of the petition.