Rhein on Energy and Climate

Since 2002 the EU has initiated two sets of policies to reduce green house gas emissions from cars:

  • encourage the use of biofuels from sun flower seeds, rape seeds, soy beans, wheat, corn and palm oil and obtain a share of 5.75 per cent of total fuel consumption in 2010 and 10 per cent in 2020.
  • fix a technical standard of 130 g C02 emission per km for the average newly registered car in 2012.

Both measures were only moderately successful:

  • The bio-fuels employed did not really reduce emissions because of additional C02 emissions occurring during their production and processing.
  • The fast rise of individual traffic more than neutralised the positive impact of emission standards;

The EU should therefore try to do better in the future.

It should only admit biofuels that reduce C02 emissions by at least 50 per cent, taking into consideration all negative by-effects, from the use of chemical fertiliser to deforestation.

Second generation biofuels like wood, grasses, non-edible parts of plants achieve such results and should therefore be the basis for the future.

Europe has a good chance of becoming one of the leaders in processing cellulosic bio-ethanol. The world` s biggest plant is due to start production later this year in northern Italy. The EU should encourage the development of this innovative industry.

By supporting sustainable ligno-cellulosic bio-ethanol the EU would also render a service to its aircraft industry that calls for sustainable kerosene additives. The future of low-carbon air traffic will depend on higher fuel efficiency of planes and less polluting fuels.

In practical terms, the EU should take two strategic decisions:

  • Phase out the use of first generation bio-diesel until 2020.

It should drop the 10 per cent non-mandatory target for the share of biofuels in total diesel/gasoline consumption for 2020 as meaningless, end support mechanisms like the € 45/ha premium for sun-flower and rape seed production and offer incentives for the production of sustainable ligno-cellulosic biofuels.

  • Fix much more ambitious car C02 emission standards.

The global car industry has made great strides in fuel efficiency during the last years. But it is far from having reached the limits of what is technically possible.

The EU should therefore have the courage to make the average car twice as fuel-efficient as at present. A fuel-efficiency standard of 70g C02 per km for the average newly produced car should be feasible until 2020.

By fixing such an ambitious standard the EU will oblige both the domestic and foreign car manufacturers to focus on fuel efficiency, which will be crucial for future competitiveness.

These measures are no panacea for converting automobile traffic into a green paradise. In order to achieve substantial reductions of C02 emissions from the transport sector the EU will have to adopt a broad programme of actions. Making public commuter transport and rail transport for goods more attractive must become additional priorities beyond minimising emissions from cars and trucks by stricter fuel efficiency standards. Considering the share of the transport sector in the aggregate C02 balance the EU should put more focus on reducing emissions from transport.

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  1. Sir:

    I missed this article from you.

    I agree.

    Your comments are being confirmed as being as relevant today as when Henry Ford made his comments in the last Century.

    And Sir, there is good news.

    Just across the water from where I reside in Malta the Company Genesyst UK is shortly to commence the pioneering works to build a Biomass (from Waste) to Ethanol facility that is understood will produce over 85 million liters of ethanol from a mixed variety of raw materials including municipal waste residues, farm waste residues, food waste residues, sea-storm sea-weeds and farmed sea-weeds developed in shallow on-land salt-water lagoons (barely 400 mm deep) using CO2 captured from power stations and industry, and other materials from Non-Food origins. Their process as I read it before and now is the simplest extension of what Henry Ford announced in the early 20th Century, no GMO or Enzymes just basic science in the raw.

    It is understood, Sir, that the company has been pressing to get this started since it formally announced its intentions a year ago – but with the combined effects of the recession and other issues – the funding has been fairly difficult to obtain and sponsors of funds are tortuous. The EU it seems would sooner fund crazy developments and gives out huge subsidies to mega companies rather than this style of project – so there is hope that your views might be of interest.

    What is obvious from my reading of this proposal is that this “generation” of Biofuels can be produced more cheaply than those from Foods. I repeat again: what is obvious from my reading of this proposal is that the Company can produce this generation of Biofuels more cheaply than those from Foods.

    I commend you Sir, to read what they are doing. And give them a fillip of publicity.

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