What is Europe doing to address climate change and reduce CO2 emissions from fuels?
The European Union began to focus on renewable energy in transport fuels in 2003 when the Biofuels directive (2003/30/EC) was adopted. This initial attempt to foster the development of biofuels was justified by three objectives: reduction in CO2 emissions, improved security of supply and support for the rural economy. This has been further strengthened and refined in two major new directives: the Fuel Quality directive (2009/30/EC) and the directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (2009/28/EC). Here the emphasis is to address the climate change challenge by imposing minimum levels of renewable fuels in transport, and specifically biofuels. The directives also set targets for the reduction, in the entire life cycle of gasoline and diesel fuels, of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy, and for minimum standards for the CO2 reductions of individual biofuels, the so-called "sustainability criteria”.
The introduction of the 2003 Biofuels Directive saw a major shift in EU ether production from MTBE to ETBE as it provided the oil industry with a "drop in” solution for the rapid introduction of bio-gasoline, ETBE being substantially similar to MTBE, and easier to blend than ethanol. Japan has recently come to a similar conclusion and is favouring ETBE in order to introduce low level ethanol blending in gasoline.
The two new European directives have also recognised the ability of ethers to deliver emission savings by setting default values of CO2 reduction "equal to that of the ethanol production pathway used". EFOA is pleased with this recognition, but we believe that recent studies (for instance from independent experts such as CE Delft and Hart), which show that ETBE typically offers an additional saving of 24 kg of CO2-equivalent/GJ of ethanol, mean the directives significantly underestimate the benefits of bio-ethers.