The EU’s dependency on crude oil imports is high and rising as domestic oil supplies have declined at a faster rate than demand. In 2018 imports accounted for 96% of the EU’s oil supply and total spending on crude oil imports in the EU was €211bn (equivalent to 1.5% of EU GDP, or €473 per capita).
The EU’s transport sector accounts for 69% of final demand for petroleum products. Road transport alone accounts for 49% of final demand for petroleum. Increased ambition is needed to ensure the end of transport’s oil reliance. This needs to happen through increased energy efficiency measures, taxation, use of direct electrification where possible and the use of renewable hydrogen and synthetic fuels in the sectors where electrification is not feasible.
Since 2009, a provision in the EU Fuel Quality Directive obliged fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of transport fuel by 6% by 2020 compared with 2010. The 6% reduction could 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 (upstream emissions reductions). According to the law, oil companies were also to disclose the different types of fossil fuels they were bringing to the EU market and their different carbon footprints.
The law was meant to prevent the use of the most polluting sources of oil, like tar sands and coal-to-liquid. But from the very beginning, the oil industry in Europe and in North America as well as the government of Canada have attacked the proposed measures which were finally adopted but weakened in 2014. Because of the heavy reliance on crop biofuels, the carbon intensity hasn’t decreased substantially since 2010. The EEA reports that in 2018, the average GHG intensity of transport fuels was only 2.1 % lower than in 2010, when taking into account ILUC impacts (and 3.7% without ILUC).