The discussion about Europe’s biofuels policy is in full swing and the biofuels industry has assembled an impressive lobbying army to spread the gospel. Hardly a day goes by without the biofuels industry organising some event to promote the benefits of biodiesel and ethanol. This is a good indication of how important EU legislation is for biofuel producers. Indeed, growing crops and then turning them into fuels to burn in combustion engines is a costly and inefficient business. The truth is the biofuels industry was created and survives on generous and sustained support in the form of mandates, tax breaks and subsidies.
After many false dawns the electric car is finally on a trajectory to replace the internal combustion engine.
The average car sits unused for more than 90% of the time, carries on average just one and a half people and costs on average €6,500 a year to own and run. Each car occupies 150m2 of urban land and still this is not enough – congestion costs the EU economy €100 billion annually. The convenience that made the car a 20th century icon has been eroded by its popularity.
Can Europe fall in love with biofuels again? This was the question a big biofuels producer asked in his Valentine’s letter to EU policy makers. The occasion for his love letter was, of course, the European Commission’s proposed reform of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which regulates biofuels in Europe.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this last editorial for the T&E Bulletin, having led this wonderful organisation since 2004. The obvious question to ask now is ‘Have we made a difference?’
Electric vehicles are becoming more and more competitive, mainly because battery prices have fallen 65% since 2010 and are forecasted to fall to $230 per kWh in 2017-2018. Batteries are also becoming more powerful as they gain in energy density. Moreover, these improvements were recently reinforced by other significant developments: the unveiling by Tesla of its Model 3 is making high-spec electric cars more accessible; and the Netherlands, Norway and Germany’s public support for the rollout of electric vehicles.
The idea of an electric vehicle (EV) sales quota is gaining momentum. Recently the Netherlands' parliament voted to make 100 per cent of new car sales emissions-free by 2025. Dutch MPs also told the government to make this possible through EU policy - most likely in the form of an EV sales quota for carmakers as part of the next round of car CO2 standards.
What have been the two sustainable mobility revolutions of the past decade? Of course, that is an impossible question. I am sure that if you asked 10 different people you would get 10 different answers.
The EU took some small but welcome steps towards reforming its biofuels policy on 13 June when the council of energy ministers agreed a position. Clearly the content of this agreement - food-based biofuels capped at seven per cent of petrol and diesel sold, and weak national targets for advanced biofuels - is far from satisfactory as it is still fails to differentiate among the various types of biofuels and reward those with better environmental performance.