We Need to Decarbonize Now. Biofuels Can Help Us Get There
Philippe Marchand, ETIP Bioenergy Steering Committee member and chair of the platform’s Working Group 3 – End Use, has recently shared his opinion on the role of biofuels for global decarbonisation.
With the relentless rise of inequality in the last forty years, pushing more of the middle class towards ever-lower incomes, aggravated in 2020 by the pandemic which may still last for some time, we observe in 2020 lower sales of new cars, with two possible consequences:
- Either the postponement of the replacement of the existing car: the average car age will increase, thus directionally increasing the average GHG emission from road transport, light-duty vehicles (LDVs) accounting for more than half of the energy use thereof,
- Or, the decision to purchase a second-hand car, with the same consequence on GHG emissions
Add to this directionally lower fossil energy prices, making private LDV driving even more affordable. The steady interest for EVs will not stop, as public support remains, but it is likely to wane for some time, making electrification of road transport an even more remote silver bullet to reduce the carbon footprint of transport, at least for the two decades ahead of us.
We need a transition solution to reduce the carbon footprint of transport that is compatible with society expectations. This solution has been tested for more than a decade: biofuels.
First generation biofuels have a rightful role to play in decarbonisation especially with science-based sustainability criteria that require the demonstration of the reductions in GHG emissions across the full lifecycle and prevention of unintended negative consequences. And advanced biofuels, produced from waste and residues, in the spirit of a growing circular economy, in the future also possibly from algae or captured CO2, can complement first generation biofuels, as technologies have come of age and only need a stable, predictable, regulatory framework for investors to be convinced that their deployment carries a strong business case.
Sure, biofuels cost more to produce than fossil fuels, the price of the latter not carrying the financial impact of all its negative externalities, such as climate change. Public money is heavily invested in EV. This support is legitimate, necessary, to make sure electrification of road transport plays its expected role in the 2050 zero net carbon ambition, in thirty years from now. The Recovery, Resilience and EU Green Deal programs should also be able to support biofuels as an affordable transition solution for road transport carbon footprint reduction in the carbon budget, most particularly in helping low-income citizens who will rely in the foreseeable future on ICEV for their mobility.