EU proposes 'blunt' transport biofuel target as Schwarzenegger shows the way forward


The European Union has proposed to almost double the proportion of biofuels used in transport but has no idea how much this will actually reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Meanwhile Governor Schwarzenegger yesterday announced an innovative plan to cut CO2 emissions from the production and use of all fuels used for cars by 10% in the state of California.

Commenting on the new European and Californian proposals, Jos Dings of Transport and Environment (T&E), a network of sustainable transport groups said:

"The European system bluntly dictates that 10% of the fuel used for transport should be biofuel regardless of whether it has been produced sustainably, regardless of the CO2 emissions released during production and regardless of whether other renewable energy sources might work better. In contrast, the Californian system will work because it focuses on cutting CO2 emissions overall and will therefore create a market for only the most environmentally-friendly fuels. A similar system in Europe could be twice as effective at cutting CO2 as the biofuel target proposed today."

UPDATE 19/01/2007: The directors of three leading environmental groups have written to the President of the European Commission calling for carbon reduction targets for transport fuels.

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Notes to editors:

EU biofuels proposal, 10/01/2007
In a biofuels progress report published today, the European Commission has proposed that at least 10% of the volume of petrol and diesel the EU will use by 2020 should come from biomass rather than fossil sources. The EU's current non-binding target is 5.75% by 2010 (Directive 2002/30). In late March the Commission is expected to table a legislative proposal.

The new proposal and the existing policy are both based on the volume of biofuel sold, irrespective of the way the biofuel has been produced.

The Commission has proposed to give extra incentives to so-called 'second-generation' biofuels, which are generally more sustainable. However this approach still ignores the fact that even amongst second-generation biofuels there are vast differences. This approach also ignores the potential of other alternative fuels such as biogas, hydrogen and electricity.

Californian low-carbon fuels proposal, 09/01/2007
The Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced yesterday during his 'State of the State' speech an Executive Order (1) that California adopt a so-called Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The LCFS requires fuel providers to ensure that the mix of fuel they sell in the California market meets, on average, a declining target for greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2-equivalent grammes per unit of fuel energy sold. By 2020, the LCFS will produce a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of fuel in passenger vehicles in California.

Why the California system would be more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions
A joint report of the European Commission and the car and petroleum industries (2) indicates that depending on their production path, greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels can be anything from worse to 90% better than conventional petrol or diesel. Therefore the environmental outcome of the EU's newly proposed biofuels target is highly uncertain. In the best case, it could reduce total greenhouse gas emissions from road transport by 9% by 2020, but it could also increase its emissions if all biofuel would be produced by the most unsustainable methods. Therefore, there is no guarantee of the extent of greenhouse gas emissions reductions under this proposal.

In contrast the California system's target is for a guaranteed reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of car fuel by 10%. This system also created a market incentive for those fuels that do most to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

(1) See press release from the state of California:
See also background notes:

(2) See CONCAWE / EUCAR / European Commission Joint Research Centre, WELL-TO-WHEELS ANALYSIS OF FUTURE AUTOMOTIVE FUELS AND POWERTRAINS IN THE EUROPEAN CONTEXT, Well-to-wheels report, Brussels, January 2004

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