EU releases proposal on deploying alternative fuel infrastructure

By Holly Jessen | January 28, 2013

A recently released European Commission proposal on deploying alternative fuels infrastructure recognizes the importance of biofuels but does not go far enough, said ePURE, the European Renewable Ethanol Association.

On Jan. 24 the European Commission announced a package of measures designed to build up European alternative fuel stations with common design and use standards. If approved, it would imposed binding targets on EU member states, containing minimum levels of infrastructure for alternative fuels, including biofuels. “Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance and the lack of recharging and refueling stations,” according to a European Commission press release.

Consulting with experts and stakeholders, electricity, hydrogen, biofuels, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas were identified as the alternative fuels with the highest potential for long-term decarbonization and substitution of oil. Biofuels was identified as the most important type of alternative fuel currently, accounting for 4.4 percent of EU transportation fuel. “They can contribute to a substantial reduction in overall CO2 emissions, if they are produced sustainably and do not cause indirect lands use change,” the European Commission said. “They could provide clean power to all modes of transport. However, supply constraints and sustainability considerations may limit their use.” Electricity, on the other hand, was identified as a clean fuel particularly attractive for the deployment of electric vehicles and two wheelers.

The European Commission’s proposal for standards in labeling fuel pumps and vehicles was welcomed by ePURE. Providing consumers with information on fuel quality, environmental aspects and vehicle compatibility will enhance consumer acceptance and facilitate the introduction of E10 throughout Europe. “France has set the example: With clear and consumer-friendly labeling the E10 introduction was a smooth ride,” Rob Vierhout, secretary general of ePURE said in a prepared statement.

On the other hand, the organization was disappointed that the proposal did not include information about high ethanol blends, such as E85, a fuel that has already been in use in several EU member states for a number of years. And, the proposal distorts the emissions picture of alternative fuels by not recognizing that most alternative fuel emissions occur upstream, rather than at the tailpipe. “We must stop comparing apples with oranges,” Vierhout said. “Only a harmonized tool to measure GHG emissions will allow us to judge the environmental performance of the different fuel options,” Mr. Vierhout added.