The European Commission today proposed new standards for transport fuels that, among other measures, require suppliers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production, transport and use of their fuels by 10% between 2011 and 2020.
This life-cycle based approach to lower carbon fuels echoes the new California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) ordered by Governor Schwarzenegger that also requires, as an initial goal, a 10% reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) intensity of all passenger vehicle fuels sold in California by 2020. (Earlier post.)
The Commission said that its proposal to revise the existing 1998 fuel quality directive reflects developments in fuel and engine technology, the growing importance of biofuels and the need both to meet the air quality goals set out in the 2005 Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and to further reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.
Achieving the EC’s goal of a 10% reduction would cut emissions by 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020—equivalent to the total combined emissions of Spain and Sweden today.
Key elements of the directive include:
The 10% reduction in life-cycle GHG emissions. Starting in 2011, suppliers will have to reduce emissions per unit of energy by 1% a year from 2010 levels. This will result in a 10% cut—relative to 2010—by 2020.
A new gasoline blend. To enable a higher volume of biofuels to be used in gasoline, the proposal establishes a separate gasoline blend with a higher permitted content of oxygenates, including up to 10% ethanol. The different gasoline blends will be clearly marked to avoid fuelling vehicles with incompatible fuel.
To compensate for an increase in VOCs emissions that will result from greater use of ethanol, the Commission will also propose the mandatory introduction of vapor recovery equipment at filling stations later this year.
Ultra low-sulfur diesel. From 31 December 2008, all on-road diesel fuel marketed will have to have an ultra-low sulfur content of no more than 10 parts per million. From 31 December 2009, all off-road diesel fuel will also have to have the ultra low 10 ppm sulfur content, down from the current 1,000 ppm (in 2008). Fuel for inland waterway barges (also currently at 1,000 ppm in 2008) must hit 300 ppm by 31 December 2009, and 10 ppm by 31 December 2011.
PAH reduction. From 1 January 2009, the maximum permitted content of poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is to be reduced by one-third. This may reduce emissions not only of PAHs, some of which may cause cancer, but also of particulate matter.
Reduced Sulfur Off-road and marine diesel. The permitted sulphur content of diesel for use by non-road machinery and inland waterway barges will also be substantially cut.
This is one of the most important measures in the series of new initiatives the Commission needs to take to step up the fight against global climate change. It is a concrete test of our political commitment to leadership on climate policy and our capacity to translate political priorities into concrete measures. It will further underpin Europe’s shift towards the low-carbon economy that is essential if we are to prevent climate change from reaching dangerous proportions. These proposals will also help achieve a significant reduction in the noxious pollutants from transport that can harm our citizens’ health, as well as opening the way for a major expansion in the use of biofuels, especially second generation biofuels.—Stavros Dimas, Environment Commissioner
|Major changes to technical specifications proposed|
|Parameter||Old value||New value|
|Maximum permitted oxygen content in gasoline||2.7% by mass||3.7% by mass in “high biofuel petrol”|
|Maximum ethanol content||5% by volume||10% by volume in “high biofuel petrol”|
|Other oxygenates||Varied between 3 and 15%||All increased by a comparable amount in “high biofuel petrol” except methanol.|
|Sulfur content of on-road diesel||Currently 50 ppm. Provisionally 10 ppm from 1 January 2009||10 ppm from 31 December 2008|
|Sulfur content of off-road diesel||1,000 ppm from 2008||10 ppm from 31 December 2009|
|Sulfur content of inland waterway diesel||1,000 ppm from 2008||300 ppm from 31 December 2009|
10ppm from 31 December 2011
|Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbon content of diesel||11% by mass||8% by mass|
European environmental groups welcomed the proposed lower-carbon fuel standards, but continued to criticize the Commission for its failure to announce a legally-binding target for car fuel efficiency. (Earlier post.)
Until now Europe’s approach to alternatives like biofuels has been to promote them regardless of whether or not they are good or bad for the environment. If it’s designed right this commitment to reducing carbon emissions will ensure that only the cleanest biofuels are promoted and the production process of fossil fuels is cleaned up. That is a very good approach and we welcome it.—Jos Dings, director of Transport & Environment