European Regulations Underestimate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions: Ecofys Report

Greenhouse Gas Impact of Marginal Fossil Fuel Use

[Green Car Congress]  Substituting biofuels for marginal fossil-based liquid fuels results in the avoidance of significant GHG emissions that are not currently accounted for in the European Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), according to a new analysis by the consultancy Ecofys…

The European RED and the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) both assess the GHG benefits of biofuels by comparing the lifecycle emissions of biofuels to a “fossil comparator”. However, the Ecofys authors note, the current comparator does not reflect the increasing emissions of fossil fuels that are becoming more difficult to extract. In addition, they argue, biofuels should not just be compared to the average performance of gasoline or diesel but with the fossil fuels they most likely replace—i.e. those that are marginally “not produced”…

The Ecofys study first analyses the cause-effect relations of the marginal decrease of EU fossil fuel consumption (the effect of introducing biofuels) on the global development and exploitation of new fossil fuel sources. The study also investigates the carbon intensity of the four fossil fuel types that are most sensitive to a marginal reduced global demand for oil.

Based on the assessment that the marginal oil displaced by biofuels is a combination of oil sands, kerogen oil (oil shale) and light tight oil, the Ecofys team estimated that the marginal greenhouse gas emissions avoided by the introduction of biofuel are approximately 115 gCO2eq/MJ—31.7 g/MJ above the average fossil fuel emissions as represented by the fossil comparator used in the European directives on Renewable Energy and on Fuel Quality. In other words, by taking the marginal approach, they found that the fossil fuels being displaced by biofuels would emit 31.7 g/MJ more than the current fossil comparator…


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