Article 7a of the EU's 2009 Fuel Quality Directive, for the first time, obliges fuel suppliers to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas ‘intensity’ of transport fuel by 6% by 2020 compared with 2010. According to the directive, from 2011, suppliers were also to report to authorities designated from member states on the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuel they supply. However, implementation of such reporting clause is still pending.
The 6% reduction can be achieved through the use of biofuels, renewable electricity and a reduction in the flaring and venting of gases at the extraction stage of fossil fuel feedstocks.
When EU laws are passed, many important details are left to be decided upon in a process called ‘comitology’, an example of such details being the reporting duties of fuel suppliers to member states. Due to its technical and opaque nature, this process can lead to decisions with major implications being taken without much external scrutiny. In October 2011 the European Commission published a comitology proposal to enable implementation of Article 7a. It establishes a methodology for the calculation of the GHG intensity of fossil fuels and the electricity used in electric vehicles as well as the baseline from which GHG reductions should be measured. The Canadian government and oil companies have strongly objected to the proposal because very carbon intensive products such as fuel produced from Canadian tar sands would be obliged to clean up or otherwise be unwelcome on the EU market. EU Member State environment ministers were supposed to vote on the proposal in June 2012, but the European Commission has ordered a full impact assessment on the impacts of the detailed rules, so no final decision is expected before the summer of 2013. Read our briefing and get a reality check on Canada's tar sands.
Dirty oil to Europe through America's Keystone XL pipeline
Little tar sands oil comes to Europe at the moment. However, this might change if some of the pipeline projects through Canada or the US get approved, the biggest being Keystone XL - a pipeline that would bring tar sands crude from the land-locked Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. From there this dirty crude could be shipped all around the world, including Europe. Over the next two decades, the tar sands industry is considering plans to triple its production from 1.5 million barrels/day today to 4.5m, according to Canadian energy economist, Mark Jaccard.