Friday, April 12, 2024

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The European Union must reconsider its strategy towards biofuels for four key reasons.


One of the key takeaways from the ongoing process of implementing the EU’s Fit for 55 climate package is the need for a different approach to considering biofuels and their role in reducing fossil fuel use in transportation.

The topic of incorporating sustainable biofuels into the shift from a fossil fuel-dominated economy to carbon neutrality has been a highly debated and often misunderstood aspect of the Fit for 55 process. However, with the EU entering a new political phase, there is hope for a more productive and informed conversation on this matter.

The EU must change its mindset in order to successfully reach its objectives for addressing climate change, ensuring food security, and achieving energy independence.

The G7 group, composed of top economic nations, has recently announced a significant decrease of over 78% in GHG emissions in comparison to fossil fuels. This progress is bringing them closer to achieving carbon-neutrality with each passing year. This solution is currently effective in both petrol and hybrid cars, which make up the majority of new car purchases in Europe, as well as existing infrastructure.

  • Energy independence: Domestic production of renewable ethanol helps reduce the EU’s dependence on imported fossil fuel. EU policies that unfairly hamper the use of sustainable biofuels such as ethanol are by definition opening the door to more fossil oil.
  • In 2022, the debate over ‘food vs. fuel’ resurfaced, but was ultimately proven to be false. European biorefineries actually generated more food and animal feed than fuel, which helped decrease the EU’s reliance on imported protein. Members of ePURE were able to produce 5.9 million tons of food and feed using multipurpose crops, including ethanol, without sacrificing one for the other.

  • Producing ethanol domestically has other advantages, such as generating biogenic CO2 that can be used in place of fossil CO2 in beverages and industrial purposes. This is crucial for maintaining a steady supply.

  • The European Union’s strategy for reducing emissions should be inclusive of all technologies.

    The European Court of Auditors has cautioned against the current approach of relying solely on electric vehicles to decrease carbon emissions from cars. This goes beyond just being a logical decision, as it is also backed by the court’s report. Europe cannot rely on only one solution to de-fossilize road transport.

    The primary auditing institution of the EU discovered that Europe’s plans to depend on electric vehicles for road transportation while eliminating other options could lead to long-term reliance on China and the U.S. for battery technology. This also puts their ability to achieve emission reduction targets for cars at risk.

    A transition towards carbon neutrality that promotes social inclusion should give power to every citizen of Europe, not just those who can afford advanced technologies, and to all nations.

    To clarify, if new sales of internal combustion engine cars are prohibited after 2035 without considering cars that can use carbon-neutral liquid fuels, it could have significant consequences for the EU and its residents.

    Over the next few months, the EU will attempt to specify their interpretation of CO2-neutral fuels. This will hold significance due to the following reasons:

    3. Carbon-neutral liquid fuels are essential for reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

    Despite the increase in battery-electric vehicle sales in recent years, Europeans still primarily purchase petrol and hybrid cars. These vehicles rely on liquid fuel and are expected to remain prevalent on the roads for the foreseeable future. The use of low-carbon liquid fuels is crucial in reducing their emissions.

    However, it is also possible to manufacture new cars that make better use of the current benefits of biofuels. For instance, in France, a large number of drivers utilize E85 fuel, which contains up to 85% renewable ethanol. A study has revealed that hybrid cars running on E85 are actually more environmentally friendly than battery-electric vehicles when taking into account the full emissions cycle. In India, a new flex-fuel hybrid Toyota is being introduced to the market, which can operate on 100% ethanol and utilizes its electric engine for 40-60% of its usage.

    New advancements in manufacturing are already improving the greenhouse gas reduction of renewable ethanol, reaching over 90% in some instances when compared to traditional fossil fuels. If more nations were to adopt higher levels of ethanol in regular gasoline, it could greatly decrease emissions from transportation.

    The recent report from the Court of Auditors emphasizes that Europe must implement multiple solutions in order to successfully reduce the use of fossil fuels in transportation.

    This leads us to another significant aspect:

    The struggle against global warming must promote social inclusivity.

    A move towards carbon neutrality that promotes social inclusion should benefit all citizens in Europe, regardless of their ability to access new technologies, and all countries, regardless of their ability to invest in new infrastructure.

    According to the report from the Court of Auditors, Europe must implement multiple solutions in order to successfully transition to a more sustainable transportation system. This must be done without negatively impacting consumers’ ability to purchase goods and services, and while meeting their demands for autonomy and ability to travel.

    In the upcoming months, as discussions about EU energy and climate policy become more intense, we urge policymakers to embrace a broader and technology-friendly approach. This will have multiple benefits, including achieving EU strategic objectives, promoting domestic agriculture and industry, and allowing all Europeans to contribute to the battle against climate change.

    David Carpintero serves as the CEO of ePURE, the association for renewable ethanol in Europe.

    www.epure.org