Europe’s oil dependency to stick to transport up to 2030

“Oil products would still represent 86- 87% of the EU transport sector needs– compared to 94% today – despite the significant reductions achieved in absolute levels,” a document reads. [EPA/ ZSOLT SZIGETVARY]

Despite the European Commission’s proclaimed aim of decarbonising transport, and various pieces of legislation it has pushed forward, Europe’s transport sector will remain heavily dependent on oil until 2030.

EURACTIV asked the EU executive about the best- and worst-case scenarios for transport’s decarbonisation and the Commission referred to a staff working document accompanying the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility, which reads:

“Oil products would still represent 86-87% of the EU transport sector needs – compared to 94% today – despite the significant reductions achieved in absolute levels.”

The same document emphasises that this shows that the uptake of alternative fuels and energy carriers takes time, in particular, due to the gradual replacement of vehicle fleets.

However, the document adds that significant reductions in oil products used in transport (194 to 200 Mtoe in 2050 relative to REF2016) and oil dependency are in the long run expected in all decarbonisation pathways/scenarios.

“By 2050, oil products would represent about 49-51% of the EU transport sector needs.”

“Decrease of oil use in transport is of high importance for the reduction of the fossil fuel import bill and reinforcing security of supply,” the staff working document reads.

[Source: European Commission]

EURACTIV also asked the executive how Europe could achieve the Green Deal’s objective of carbon-neutrality by 2050, given that half of transport would still run on oil. The Commission had not replied at time of publication.

The EU has been trying since the first Renewable Energy Directive in 2009 to come up with a solution for decarbonising the transport sector.

The Green Deal is expected to “revisit” some pieces of legislation, including transport, which represents almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in cities.

German economy minister Peter Altmaier recently wrote to the Commission’s climate chief Frans Timmermans to urge a moratorium on tightening car CO2 levels, which the EU executive is expected to look at again by 2021.

EU Green Deal to tune up car CO2 rules 

The European Commission will revise car CO2 standards and move towards zero-emission vehicles in the 2030s, according to the EU’s new Green Deal, unveiled on Wednesday (11 December). Every other mode of transport can expect attention over the next five years too.

Critics suggest that for the period up to 2030, all legislative proposals are focused too much on the rising ‘renewable’ energy mix of 13%, while disregarding the 87% share of oil usage.

The European Biodiesel Board (EBB), which promotes the use of biodiesel, expressed its deep concern about the Commission’s lack of ambition to effectively phase out fossil fuels in the transport sector.

“We have repeatedly transmitted these concerns to EU policymakers,” EBB told EURACTIV in an emailed response.

“Therefore, any measure, such as a target to reduce the use of fossil fuels which can help to increase the use of all available renewables […] should be considered as part of the ongoing discussions on the European Green Deal,” EBB added.

Along the same lines, EU waste biodiesel producers EWABA said a pan-EU binding target to reduce oil consumption in transport is an option worth considering.

“In any case, it would be good to increase the share of renewable fuels with high greenhouse gas savings,” EWABA said.

It added though, that the executive is working under the right assumption that fossil fuel oil consumption in the transport sector is set to progressively decrease because of a combination of factors: co-modality, digitalisation, increased targets for the use of renewable fuels.

For Emmanuel Desplechin, secretary-general of ethanol association ePURE, what the EU needs is a policy that rewards the uptake of real renewables instead of artificially inflating the contribution of certain renewables with multipliers.

Multipliers primarily apply to electric cars. A multiplier of five means that for every two electric cars, ten will be counted in the final analysis.

The latest figures from the European Commission show that since RED I was approved in 2010, most of the increase in the share of renewables in transport has come from virtual quantities created through the use of multipliers. They also show that a significant number of member states are falling short of their 2020 target for renewables in transport even with multipliers,” ePURE said.

Laura Buffet, an expert in oil and biofuels at the Transport & Environment (T&E) NGO, said the best way to reduce oil consumption and the associated high emissions is by electrifying cars, vans, trucks and motorbikes while using future sustainable supplies of green hydrogen for shipping and e-fuels for aviation.

Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, said last week that green jet fuel quotas should be considered to increase demand for hydrogen, in particular green hydrogen produced using renewable energy.

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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Sam Morgan]

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