TEPR Projects: low carbon transport fuels
One of the ways of reducing the impact of the transport sector on climate change is to improve the environmental performance of the liquid fuels that are currently used in the sector. The environmental performance of both petrol and diesel can be improved by adding biofuels to these fuels. Biofuels are made from organic matter and are compatible with petrol and diesel, so they can be added to these fuels without adversely affecting the performance of vehicles.
The use of biofuels can be controversial, as they can be made from a wide range of organic matter, or ‘feedstocks’. While biofuels made from some feedstocks deliver reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases, others do not. By encouraging the use of biofuels, there is also the risk of increasing the demand for land to grow the crops that can be used to make biofuel. This, in turn, can lead to pressure to farm on land that is currently forest, which would lead to increases in emissions if the forests were felled. This is known as indirect land use change (ILUC).
At the EU level, various pieces of legislation, including the renewable energy Directive (RED) and the fuel quality Directive (FQD), have been put in place to encourage the use of biofuels in the transport sector. At the same time, these have tried to ensure that increasing the use of biofuels delivers reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while reducing the risk of ILUC.
TEPR has worked on various reports relating to EU low carbon transport fuel policy, including:
- Assistance with the verification of compliance of national legislative measures with those of the ILUC Directive, which is being undertaken for the European Commission. Ian Skinner of TEPR is the Senior Technical Expert on this project.
- Low carbon Transport Fuel Policy for Europe Post 2020, which was undertaken for Transport and Environment. The report proposed how EU low carbon transport fuel could develop post 2020 to ensure that transport fuels were genuinely low carbon.
- Interactions between policy drivers for increasing the use of biofuels in transport, which was undertaken as part of an Intelligent Energy for Europe project. The report explored the interactions between the RED and FQD in terms of how they encouraged the uptake of low carbon transport fuels and energy sources, particularly biofuels.
In the UK, according to the Department for Transport, around 3% of the fuel used in road transport (and in off-road equipment) comes from biofuels. In 2017/18, the most common feedstock for UK biodiesel was used cooking oil, while the most common feedstock for bioethanol, which is added to petrol, was wheat. The Department estimated that, in 2017/18, the use of biofuels reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% compared to if pure petrol or diesel had been used instead.