DOE Funds More Hydrogen from Coal Projects
US and German Algae Companies Form Strategic Alliance to Advance Bioreactor Systems

European Commission Proposes New Energy Policy, Calls For 10% Biofuels by 2020

by Jack Rosebro

The EC predicts CO2 emissions will rise (especially in transportation), and is calling for deeper cuts. Click to enlarge.

Declaring that “the EU’s present energy policy is not sustainable,” the European Commission (EC) has proposed a three-year action plan toward a common European energy policy that would improve the continent’s precarious energy security.

Achieving this, in the Commission’s words, requires “catalysing a new industrial revolution, accelerating the change to low carbon growth and, over a period of years, dramatically increasing the amount of local, low emission energy that [EU member states] produce and use.

The Commission has called on the European Parliament and on leaders of EU member states to endorse the plan at a forthcoming summit in March.

The action plan is part of an EC White Paper entitled An Energy Policy for Europe that was released yesterday as part of the 2007 Strategic EU Energy Review. In the report, the Commission projects that a business-as-usual strategy would increase the EU’s dependence on externally-sourced energy from 50% of total energy consumption today to 65% by 2030, with dependence on gas imports increasing from 57% to 84% and oil from 82% to 93%.

With regard to oil and gas supplies in 2030, the Commission notes that “it is not clear from where, and how, these supplies would come.

The authors of the report see bleak times ahead if member states cannot reach common ground on energy, flatly declaring that—absent sustainable, secure and reasonably priced energy—the EU will achieve neither their own economic goals such as the Lisbon Strategy nor the Millennium Development Goals (halving poverty and hunger by 2015, providing free education for all, improving access to health care, sustainable development).

Despite efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the Commission also predicts that EU-produced GHGs will increase by around 5% by 2030, and calls on the European Union to push for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

The report also suggests that to minimize the costs of adaptation to climate change, global emissions in 2050 must be reduced by up to 50% compared to 1990, implying reductions in industrialized countries of 60-80% by that year.

In addition to restating existing EU proposals, such as a 20% increase in energy efficiency as well as a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas production compared to 1990 levels by 2020, An Energy Policy for Europe incorporates an Action Plan that includes:

  • Binding agreements to source 20% of Europe’s energy from renewable sources, with half of that (10%) coming from biofuels, by 2020.

  • Further separation of energy production from energy distribution to ensure more uniform energy costs among member states.

  • Increased spending on energy research by at least 50% over the next seven years, including the funding of up to twelve large-scale demonstrations of low-carbon commercial power generation.

  • Diversification of external energy suppliers.

Progress towards binding targets would be monitored by the Commission in a series of biannual reports. France and Germany have been especially resistant to energy market changes, while citizens of member states which have an abundance of electrical power, such as Sweden, have seen their electricity rates rise under new schemes to achieve energy rate parity, access, and choice across the continent.

Although the draft of An Energy Policy for Europe had optimistically described the EU’s relationship with external gas suppliers as “successful and established,” such language is not present in the final version of the report. The Commission does note that “several Member States are largely or completely dependent on one single gas supplier.” Only Gazprom, Russia’s state natural gas agency, fits that description.

Notable by their absence are aspirations toward energy independence; despite the successes of wind energy in Denmark, Germany, and Spain as well as biofuels in Sweden, the European Commission as well as many EU leaders seem to be resigned to the future of their continent as one which will never be able to satisfy its own energy needs.

Acute energy shortages could in fact threaten the EU’s cohesive strength, the Commission warns, pointing out that “mechanisms to ensure solidarity between Member States in the event of an energy crisis are not yet in place.”

A mid-term review of EU mobility needs, completed this summer, noted common objectives between both transport policy and energy policy—namely, lowering CO2 emissions and reducing EU import dependency on fossil fuels.

However, a separate European Commission communication entitled Biofuels Progress Report has concluded that none of the nineteen EU member states that had voluntarily set biofuels targets ranging from 3% to 7% for 2010 are likely to achieve those goals.

Although An Energy Policy for Europe sets general targets for energy efficiency as well as calling for an increased use of renewables, including biofuels, the policy paper nevertheless proposes no other measures specific to the EU’s transportation needs.




If Europe has a lower energy use per unit of GDP than the U.S., then that shows that a modern economy can grow without using as much energy. This is something we need to learn and adopt in the U.S. real soon.


It seems to me that one of the reasons why Europeans use less energy is geography. Population densities are much higher, as are urban populations, and distances to transport goods are shorter. This makes mass transit, like passenger rail lines between major cities, much more practical, with tolerable travel times. Europeans have also chosen high fuel taxes and more efficient diesel over the far more stringent emissions regulations that we have here.

We are a nation of small towns and suburban sprawl. The population of our major cities like Boston and New York actually peaked in the first decade or two of the 20th century, long before the automobile became prominent. We have taken decades to get this way and it would take decades to return, if people want to return to city life. I have noted that, at least in downtown San Diego, a growing number of new apartments and condos. People seem to be moving back into cities, at least at the moment. But it's still very expensive.

My point here is that we need solutions that work for us as things stand now. While conservation is a laudable goal, it's not a panacea, and the commuters who live 60 miles from work can only do so much within their financial limitations.


We have very high tax on fuel in Europe.
It costs 5 - 7 $ US for a us gallon of gasoline.

Thus people drive smaller, more fuel efficient cars.

Plus, our cities were designed centuries ago and so don't fit cars and especially not SUVs.

Plus, people do not "haul lumber" for fun around here.


Population densities are lower because fuel costs were cheap enough to encourage sprawl. As fuel costs rise higher and higher, there will be a gradual change as people move to live closer to their jobs. Those 60 mile commutes are really insane anyways.


Who the hell "hauls lumber" for fun?


Europe is far less "car-centric" than the US. Here in most cities you don't need a car to survive, walking/cyckling/public transport suffices. I've only been to the states once (Minneapolis), so I don't have too much experience (there were some bus lines there, at least from downtown to the Mall of America), but I've heard from friends working in the US (for example in Dallas) that without a car it is really hard to live. There are no sidewalks, so a car or taxi is needed for even very short distances, like to move one mile from a hotel to a shopping center. Makes no sense to me...My friends went walking (just to get some fresh air), and a police stopped by to give them a ride, as obviously their car must have been broken... Local people drive a car to go walking or cycling somewhere.

So, I'd say your cities could be redesigned to
be a little bit more pedestrian/cyckling friendly. More sidewalks/cycling lanes maybe?



As majonj pointed out above, European cities are centuries, even millennia, old. They grew around foot traffic and horses. In order to see anything similar in the United States, you have to look at cities like Boston and New York. I went to grad school in Boston, and even though it took an hour and a half to get to class by commuter rail, driving just wasn't worth it. Boston is often called "America's Walking City".

Thus, European cities have both geographical and historical limitations that we simply do not have here. And for the places that did have similar limitations... Google "Robert Moses".


Europe also wasn't endowed with abundant energy supplies.


They got coal, but the oil and gas was not found until later, and in smaller quantities. Timing and World Wars also had a bit to do with it.


This is a pretty bold step for the Commission. Hopefully they'll get the member states to support it, as well as some post-Kyoto protocol including the US and developing countries.


Actauly it has nothing to do with density of th cities and whatnnot.

The main troubles in america have to do with a few simple factors.

1 Unlike europe where housing had centuries to adpadt to the climate and thus most houses are well suited to the various climates.. In american we are mostly not adpated to the climates around here. Some adpatation has been done like adobe homes in the southwest. But for the most part the homes are completely not adpated for local climates..

2 We simply havnt had time to build america fulluy yet. Many places are only mostly 10 years old if that. Others while older are still mostly young contruction. It takes alot of money and time to build up a fully fuctioning city and we have not had that time or the money to do it all.

3 We simply are making a hell of alot of stuff.and a hell of alot of food. That take alot of fuel.

4 Unlike aurope where what roads do exist are designed to handle the traffic needs.. mostly.. in america because of the immigrant boom most of our most active regions have roads completely overloaded.. thus stop and go traffic and thus massively wasted fuel stopping and going.

It will likely take anouther century for us cities to realy pack in and densify as the pop increases.


The only EU country having sizable use of bioethanol is Sweden. 80% of their ethanol is sugar cane ethanol shipped from Brazil. 6 million tons of vegetable oil refined in biodiesel in EU in 2005; 7 millions tons of vegetable oil was imported to the continent, mostly from South East Asia and South America. While providing ample carbon tax credits to Kyoto-abiding European counties, switching of limited food-to-fuel stock from cheap labor and sloppy environmental practice countries contributes nothing to European energy security, economy, and to GW abatement to that matter.


“Who the hell haul lumber for fun?”

Unfortunately, we do. For more than a year I witnessed ferry traffic from Vancouver Island to mainland, and in each ferry it was half a dozen 18-wheelers hauling 2*4 lumber from, and on the return – to the Island. It was just different companies, the lumber was the same 2*4.

We have a long way to improve our economy efficiency.


I am witnessing very interesting trend here in Vancouver.
Downtown Vancouver is extensively building 30-store apartment buildings. As evening approaches, downtown begin to serve as entertaining and recreational center for people who worked here at noon. A lot of people live where they work, walk to the workplace, then spend quality time in same restraints who served them business lunch during the day.
Naturally, most of them are young couples or people in their 60-s. And there are a lot of them, as most of young people prefer to bear kids in their late 20-s. People at 60 already do not live with their kids.

People having kids tend to go to suburbans almost universally.


"People having kids tend to go to suburbs almost universally"

There are two prime reasons for this.

1. Good schools

2. ample (and secure) areas for children to play outdoors

Historically in Europe the suburban schools have always been better, and most European cities have a long legacy of being "dirty, smelly places" due to open coal fires, so most people preferred the clean suburbs with wide open spaces.

I'm from Scotland, and even there, those who could, did abandon the main cities. There was a huge building programmes throughout the 20s-30s that saw massive exodus to the suburbs. And this was largely before private car ownership was common in poverty stricken Scotland.
It was made possible by good rail links, and importantly, good tram systems.

Americans seem to completely forget that suburbs are perfectly practical and possible even without the existence of the car. Its just that American suburbs need slightly remodelled.


The comments to this entry are closed.