Ethanol Europe response to Programme for Government – Climate change focus is welcome but ‘words are not enough’

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Urgent action and clear targets needed to avoid a lost decade on emissions reductions

Ethanol Europe, a policy and advocacy organisation promoting biofuels and renewable energy welcomes the strong climate and environmental focus in the Programme for Government but cautions that Ireland cannot wait until 2030 to act.

The target to reduce average annual greenhouse gas emissions by 7 per cent between now and 2030 is very positive but if no action is taken in the first half of the period it will require drastic 12-14 per cent annual cuts in the final years coming up to 2030. As a starting point Ethanol Europe believes Government should: move to cap and cut oil use in transport from 2020, immediately introduce E10 (10 per cent ethanol) in petrol, remove the 10c per litre subsidy on ‘dirty’ diesel and ban second hand imports than cannot meet present day emissions requirements.

Ethanol Europe strongly supports the growing use of Electric Vehicles [EVs] but it is surprised that the Programme for Government seems to resile from previous commitment targets and provides no target for EV numbers in the fleet by 2030. Instead, it simply commits that the programme will “use a range of policy approaches to incentivise use of electric vehicles (EVs) and encourage a shift away from petrol/diesel vehicles”. This would seem to be a significant dilution of ambition for EVs.

Ethanol Europe welcomes the ban on new registrations of diesel and petrol cars, but based on current trends Ireland’s internal combustion fleet will have grown by 500,000 extra vehicles (from 2.8 to 3.3 million) by 2030. The 50% target for emissions cuts will not be feasible unless action is taken in the current fleet and engine types, and that means using E10 and other sustainable biofuels to make petrol and diesel more climate friendly.

Commenting, James Cogan, Director Ethanol Europe said: “We cannot afford a lost decade on emissions. Measures such as E10 petrol, which require no change or investment, and which bring no disruption, can and should be implemented immediately. E10 brings the same climate benefits as 100,000 electric vehicles (of which there are only 9,000 in Ireland currently) compared to petrol containing no bioethanol, and E10 could be implemented overnight.”

Additionally, a recent German study*shows NOx emissions can be cut by as much as 53% in existing cars by using E10, while particulates are cut by as much as 72%, depending on the model. Petrol vehicles account for one in three of all vehicles in Ireland, so any NOx reduction programme should have E10 at the top of its action list, especially as petrol vehicles will be used in urban locations long after diesels have been banned.

“More than a decade ago the government gave a 10 cent per litre tax break to diesel over petrol. Given what we now about the harmful effects of NOx emissions it is absurd that this 10 cent per litre subsidy persists and we are calling for its immediate removal. We also believe that second hand imports of EU diesel cars should be banned unless they meet present day standards” Mr Cogan added.

Ethanol Europe welcomes the commitment to conducting a Rapid evaluation of the potential role of sustainable bio-energy. The 2018 United Nations IPCC report notes that bioenergy will need to comprise 15% of transport energy if climate change is to be brought under control. Ethanol is a highly sustainable form of bio-energy and can be used to replace petrol in ever increasing proportions. Similarly, biogas in heavy vehicles is highly suited to Ireland, in terms of both production and use.