Greenhouse gas impact of marginal fossil fuel use

Published: 12/11/2014

Biofuels represent a major option in the EU’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the transportation sector. When assessing the benefits of biofuels, they are compared to the fossil fuels they replace. In the framework of the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) and the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC), this is done by comparing the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels to a ‘fossil comparator’. Yet the current comparator does not reflect the increasing emissions of fossil fuels that are becoming more difficult to extract. In addition, 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”.

This study first analyses the cause-effect relations of the marginal decrease of EU fossil fuel consumption (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, and concludes with policy implications and recommendations.

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Carlo Hamelinck
Sustainable Industries and Services