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Open Letter: Fossil fuels are the problem, not the engine

July 2021
Author: MichaelHerrmann
Company: VDMA - Power-to-X for Applications
Open Letter: Fossil fuels are the problem, not the engine

It is not the engine that is the problem, but the fossil fuel, which must therefore be replaced by CO2-free alternatives as soon as possible. This is the central message of an open letter now jointly sent by twelve associations under the umbrella of FuelsEurope to Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioners Adina-Ioana Vălean (Transport), Kadri Simson (Energy) and Thierry Breton (Internal Market).

The contribution of renewable sustainable fuels to defossilisation should finally be harnessed, the associations say. They advocate for non-discriminatory regulation in which all defossilisation options come into play in order to meet ambitious climate targets. The EU's Fit for 55 package, which will set the regulatory framework to achieve the climate targets, should therefore recognise the contribution of renewable, sustainable fuels in the CO2 standard for vehicles. This would support the ramp-up of low and zero carbon fuel production and enable climate neutral transport to be delivered quickly without overburdening individuals.

This is all the more important as neglecting the contribution of fuels, alongside tightening CO2 targets for vehicles, would lead to a de facto technology ban on the internal combustion engine, which would be unjustifiable and damaging. Decarbonising transport is much more about decarbonising the energy used than the propulsion technology: an internal combustion engine powered by renewable, sustainable fuels has a comparable carbon footprint to an electric vehicle powered by green electricity.

To reap the climate, industrial and employment benefits of renewable fuels, the focus needs to shift away from tailpipe emissions alone to a more holistic view. This recognition could be promoted through relatively small regulatory changes: By introducing a voluntary crediting mechanism for renewable and sustainable fuels into vehicle CO2 policy, a technology-open regulation could be established that could work hand-in-hand with complementary legislative measures under the Fit-fo-55 package. An exemplary methodology for voluntary CO2 credits was developed last year by Frontier Economics.

In summary, the associations stand ready to work with the EU Commission to create an integrated strategy for renewable, sustainable fuels. An important first step towards this is a correction to the CO2 standards for vehicles that broadens the focus to include decarbonisation of energy, rather than imposing a top-down technology mandate. Such a change would open the door to additional and timely CO2 savings, jobs, investment, and an opportunity for many more vehicle users to participate in the use of renewable energy, whether in gaseous, liquid, or electric form.

A pdf of the letter is to be found here

(Picture: Shutterstock)

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