Low-Carbon Fuel Standard in EU Fuel Directive (Update)

The Climate and Energy package adopted by the Council and Parliament on 22 April 2009 sought to achieve a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. It contained a revision to Directive 98/70/EC on the quality of petrol and diesel. This is achieved via a 2009/30/EC revision to the EU Fuel Directive 98/70/EC.

The revised Directive obliges suppliers to reduce by 6% the lifecycle greenhouse gas intensity of fuel and other (electric) energy supplied for use in road vehicles and of fuel for use in non-road mobile machinery by the end of the compliance period in 2020.

The article establishing this new element is Article 7a of the 2009/30/EC Directive which effectively establishes a “low-carbon fuel standard” in European Union legislation. The Directive also obliges suppliers to report information, from 2011, on the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuel they have supplied, to authorities designated by the Member States.

Here are the Commission’s proposals (dating from 2011) for the calculation method and reporting aspects of the carbon calculator to be applied to fuels.

In the UK only a biofuels carbon calculator has been implemented – here.

Otherwise, generally a transport fuel carbon calculator is not implemented, and the Commission’s 2011 proposals or any methodology for calculating lifecycle emissions are not agreed. The result is, whilst the 2009 Directive has existed for nearly five years – and is used to calculate biofuels’ overall emissions (see the UK biofuels carbon calculator) it is not used to regulate fossil fuels (in terms of the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard).

In the US, a federal appeals court has upheld California’s low carbon fuel standard, which was challenged, rejecting a claim that the state is violating the constitution’s Commerce Clause because it impedes interstate commerce.

Like Europe’s proposed standard, California’s requires that the lifecycle of fuels be measured from production to use in transportation. Fuel producers – including ethanol – located outside the state believe it discriminates against importing their products because fuels produced in California don’t have to be shipped as far.

The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard was enacted in 2007 as part of AB32, California’s climate change law. It requires the oil industry to gradually reduce the “carbon intensity” of transportation fuels by at least 10% by 2020.

The case could be appealed to the Supreme Court.

In Europe, in January 2014, environmental groups filed a legal complaint against the European Commission over the failure by the EU’s executive body to implement the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard envisaged by EU Directive 2009/30/EC. The Commission had said in April 2012 it was carrying out a full assessment into the impact of its proposal, but has yet to make the results public.

A package of guidance released January 2014 on 2030 energy policy to follow on from existing 2020 climate and energy targets omits specific targets on cutting emissions from transport, the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases. This package is found here.

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