Industry, NGOs and policy-makers have discussed the benefits and challenges of new fuels and fuel cells for sustainable transport and improved security of supply.
Growing EU dependence on foreign oil and gas imports and increasing CO2emission levels make tough policy and investment choices seem inevitable. Industry representatives, NGOs and policy-makers discussed this issue at a conference in Brussels on 18 March 2004.
According to the latest Commission figures, around 50 per cent of the EU's overall energy demand are met by fuel imports. Due to a rapid increase in energy consumption, particularly in the transport sector, paired with a decrease in domestic production, the EU's oil dependency is expected to rise from the current 82 per cent to 97 per cent by 2030.
Speakers at the conference identified several options to reduce the EU's oil dependency, including a reduction of transport, improving energy efficiency and boosting the production and use of renewable energy. The Commission is in particular focussing on the promotion of biofuels for cars, estimating that an effective implementation of the 2003 Biofuels Directive could save 19 million tonnes of oil by 2010 (see
The Commission also reaffirmed its commitment to the 'European Hydrogen Platform', which it launched in January 2004 (see
EURACTIV 21 January 2004). Some 100 million euro of EU funding, which is matched by the same amount of private investment, is currently being awarded to research into hydrogen and fuel cells under the 6th Research Framework Programme. However, although the conference participants broadly agreed on the many advantages of hydrogen, there is no consensus on its long-term economic viability, necessary industry investments and its potential to reduce emissions. Critics point out that, currently, the bulk of hydrogen is produced by traditional fossil fuels in an extremely energy-intensive process.
A Commission Communication is expected later this year on the next steps for encouraging the use of natural gas and hydrogen as transport fuels.