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.
Bioenergy accounted for more than half of all renewable energy demand in Europe in 2014, according to projections just released by the European Commission. Burning biomass and biofuels account for 47% and 9%, respectively, of renewable energy, versus 11% from wind, 17% from hydro and 7% from solar.
This study, commissioned by T&E from the IEEP, ICCT and TEPR, asks how can a post-2020 low-carbon transport fuel policy be designed that is effective and addresses the political pitfalls of Europe's pre-2020 policies.
A report in the Netherlands has highlighted the need for greater transparency on the origin and carbon footprint of biofuels if they are to play a role in a more sustainable transport fuels market.
In these documents, T&E responds to the public consultations on the EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) and Land use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). As transport is currently the largest sector within the ESD, it is vital to have a strong ESD with limited flexibilities to avoid watering down the EU climate targets and to achieve reductions in the transport sector. The way LULUCF is dealt with is also fundamental to avoiding a decrease in the level of ambition in sectors such as transport. For these reasons, T&E provided input to both consultations in close coordination with other environmental NGOs.
Six of the largest oil and gas companies in Europe have called for the UN to let them help devise a global carbon pricing system. Responding to rising pressure ahead of the Paris climate talks at the end of this year, the chief executives of Royal Dutch Shell, BP and BG Group from the UK, France’s Total, Norway’s Statoil and Italy’s Eni have sought direct talks with governments.