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Saturday, December 15, 2007

EU sets tougher fuel regulations

MEPs back tougher fuel standards for oil industry

The European Parliament's environment committee has backed Commission plans aimed at making the oil industry take greater responsibility for cutting harmful emissions generated by its products, which experts say could prevent some 500 million tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

The Commission has proposed revising EU-wide specifications, contained in the 1998 Fuel Quality Directive , relating to the use of petrol, diesel and gas oil in cars, trucks, inland waterway barges, tractor locomotives and machinery (EurActiv 01/02/07).
The review aims to reflect the latest developments in fuel and engine technology, including the development of lower carbon fuels such as biofuels, and to tighten standards so as to help combat climate change and meet the EU's ambitious air-quality objectives (see Clean Air Strategy).

Among the proposals are amendments that would permit higher volumes of biofuels such as ethanol to be used in petrol and that would oblige fuel suppliers to ensure that greenhouse gases produced by their fuels throughout their life cycle (i.e. production, transport and use) are cut by 1% per year between 2011 and 2020 (Article 7a) (see LinksDossier on the Fuel Quality Directive).

In a vote on 27 November, MEPs agreed that, as of 2009, all fuel suppliers should be required to monitor and report on the "lifecycle greenhouse emissions" produced by their fuels throughout their life-cycle (i.e. production, transport and use) and that those emissions should be cut by 10% between 2011 and 2020.

Nevertheless, the committee voted in favour of granting a more flexible timeline to industry, saying that CO2 emissions should be reduced by "at least 2% every two years" rather than the strict annual 1% cut that the Commission was proposing.

On the other hand, MEPs approved the introduction of binding "sustainability criteria" in the directive, saying this is necessary to avoid a situation where fuel makers focus purely on cutting CO2 at the lowest possible cost, without any consideration for other potentially negative environmental side-effects – notably those linked to the mass production of biofuels made from agricultural crops, including deforestation, food price hikes and water shortages.

Under the new criteria, only biofuels that meet these minimum biodiversity and social requirements and which are able to deliver life-cycle CO2 savings of at least 50% compared to fossil fuels, would count towards the 10% target.

MEPs also rejected Commission plans to allow non-road vehicles and inland waterway vessels to continue using diesel containing as much as 300mg/kg of sulphur until 2011, saying all vehicles should respect a strict 10mg/kg limit as of 2009.

They also said the permitted content of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in diesel should be reduced from 11% to 6% rather than the 8% proposed by the Commission.

My comment: Now, these are really tougher regulations, I hope I'll see them in reality, not only on paper.

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