The environmental direction of Canada’s new Liberal Party government is known – easily an improvement on Stephen Harper’s hostile Conservative administration. But the extent to which new prime minister Justin Trudeau (pictured) moves the G7 country away from its tar sands obsession remains to be seen. Particular concern surrounds his commitment to the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Europeans pay 14 cent more on average in tax for a litre of petrol than for diesel – indirectly subsidising diesel cars to the order of €2,600 per vehicle, a new study by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) finds. This 30% tax gap in favour of diesel is a key reason for diesel cars’ majority share of new sales in Europe and leads to air quality problems where nine out of 10 diesel cars fail to meet NOx limits when driven on the road. 
The gap between petrol and diesel taxes in Europe is quite unique in the world and is the main reason why diesel engines have taken off in Europe and not worldwide. This study analyses fuel price and tax trends since 1980 and adds a specific analysis of diesel tax paid by trucks. It finds that in 2014 the gap in tax levels for diesel and petrol paid by motorists was €0.14/l, which is 30% lower than petrol per unit of energy or tonne of CO2.
The recently adopted implementing rules for the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) include the possibility for fuel suppliers to use upstream emissions reductions (UERs) to reach the 6% decarbonisation target. This briefing contains T&E's recommendations for European Commission guidelines on UERs under the FQD. It outlines how the rules are vague and, without robust guidance by the European Commission and restrictions by member states, there is a risk of double counted and non-additional offset credits being used for compliance, seriously undermining the FQD’s effectiveness.
In July 2015 the European Commission opened a public consulation on an EU strategy for liquefied natural gas and gas storage. In its response T&E state that natural gas cannot deliver the decarbonisation that the sector needs to achieve the EU climate goals up to 2050. Investing in this technology would divert necessary resources from truly low-carbon alternatives in the transport sector and would create lock-in effects. Public resources for energy transition in transport should go where it offers the greatest public benefits, improved efficiency, and sustainable electrification.
Transport is the greatest consumer of energy in the developed world, consuming more than industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found for the second consecutive year. In the EU, transport still lags behind industry in total final energy consumption, but the gap is narrowing, and road transport’s continued reliance on oil is making the sector increasingly slow to embrace lower-emission energy.
New figures show the amount of biofuels being used for transport in the EU rose by 6.1% in 2014, but the increase is less than the fall in transport biofuels registered in 2013. The rise suggests trends are going in the wrong direction as biodiesel takes up the most important part of the increase, though the figures should be treated with caution because there is limited information on the type of feedstocks used to produce these biofuels.
New research has suggested that investing in public and low-emission transport could bring massive financial savings in addition to making a sizeable contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.
It is impossible to have missed the news on cheap oil and gas, and what it is doing to our economies. A Google search for ‘oil price drop’ shows you what Reuters, BBC, Bloomberg, Forbes, etc – the big boys – have to say on the subject. And shale plays a key role in both. And indeed, oil costs less than it did in 2008 and 2012. And indeed, this is having a big economic impact. It means that Europe in 2014 saved around 1% of GDP, more than €100 billion, in import bills. A free and welcome boost. But this column is not seeking to add to what Reuters has to say. It wants to offer two other perspectives.