PM+: Fuel quality directive 'implementing measure' set to boost EU uptake of less polluting fuels

Written by Samuel Maubanc on 27 February 2015 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

Developing a diverse mix of transport fuels is key to achieving a 'cleaner, more efficient and climate-friendly' European transport sector, argues Samuel Maubanc.

If the European Union is to achieve its ambitious climate targets, then it's essential that Europe's transport sector starts utilising more efficient and less polluting fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)

We in the European LPG industry welcome the recent adoption of the 'implementing measure' to the EU's fuel quality directive (FQD).

The directive - which aims to reduce CO2 emissions from transport fuels by six per cent by 2020 - sets out reporting requirements and assigns average lifecycle carbon intensity values to the most commonly used fuels in the EU.

The implementing measure's adoption marks the end of a long-drawn-out process between the EU institutions and allows the FQD to finally be fully implemented.

"The implementing measure's adoption marks the end of a long-drawn-out process between the EU institutions and allows the FQD to finally be fully implemented"

Originally adopted in 2009 the directive clearly set out the 2020 'six per cent' emission reduction target, but crucially didn't contain any details on how to calculate the emission values of major fuels.

The European commission first proposed an implementing measure in 2011, but was unable to find a compromise between MEPs and the council. Considering the limited lifespan of the directive - it will run only until 2020 - passing an implementing measure that allows the FQD to become operational was long overdue.

Comparing the values assigned to different fuels highlights the fact that the EU can achieve its goals of reducing carbon emissions from transport fuels by encouraging the transition to already existing alternative fuels.

LPG, the most widely used alternative fuel on Europe’s roads as recognised by the EU's recent alternative fuels infrastructure directive, has been assigned a value of 73.1 grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule, about 25 per cent lower than the values for petrol and diesel.

LPG is therefore already significantly below the baseline average for transport fuels - which means that if the EU transport sector were to increase its share of LPG - the six per cent target could easily be reached by 2020.

This offers several advantages for both producers and customers. Unlike other alternative fuels that are at a more experimental stage, LPG is a fully tested and readily available alternative fuel, with a growing refuelling network of over 30,000 stations already.

For fuel distributors, increasing their share of LPG or partnering up with LPG companies gives them an opportunity to reduce their CO2 emissions in a very cost-efficient way. Consumers, on the other hand, will find a fully developed infrastructure and a low-cost fuel that can be used in most major car brands.

The FQD is therefore now an important step in promoting more sustainable methods of transport.

Instead of relying on support for research and development or the deployment of adequate infrastructure, the directive obliges fuel distributors to lower their CO2 emissions while giving them a chance to do so by methods fully available today.

"An increase in the share of LPG in transport would lead to 350 million tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions and more than €20bn in savings related to costs associated with human health and environmental damage"

In doing so, the directive will also help in combating other issues arising from transport. Air quality, for example, can be improved by switching to less-polluting fuels. LPG emits significantly less particulate matters and black carbon than conventional fuels. Black carbon is one of the major causes of damage to human health from air pollution, and is the second largest contributor to global warming, after CO2.

Independent analysis has shown that an increase in the share of LPG in transport up to ten per cent in 2020 would lead to 350 million tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions and more than €20bn in savings related to costs associated with human health and environmental damage.

The FQD is a positive step towards achieving a cleaner, more efficient and more climate-friendly transport sector, while encouraging technologies that are available today.

By continuing to follow this approach, which puts technology neutrality at its core, the EU can ensure it develops a diverse mix of transport fuels, significantly contributing to its climate goals while ensuring that mobility and transport remain affordable.

We should congratulate EU policymakers on finally overcoming the last obstacle in implementing the FQD and hope that it will eventually be extended beyond 2020.

About the author

Samuel Maubanc is general manager of AEGPL, the European LPG association

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