Time for Full Carbon Accounting
by Zoltán Szabó (Biofuels Digest) The sustainability aspects of transport fuels are in the spotlight this year in Brussels as a number of key files make their way through the process, namely the Energy Union package, the new Renewable Energy Directive, a communication on transport decarbonisation, and the bioenergy sustainability policy.
Correct carbon accounting, or how to account for the total climate impact of various forms of transport energy is a hot topic. Policy makers are being urged to include indirect impacts in carbon accounting as well as direct ones and this includes indirect land use changes or “iLUC”. And rightly so. It’s high time comprehensive carbon accounting was introduced.
Europe’s petrol pumps currently supply petrol with about 5% bioethanol in it. But not everyone is convinced this is any better for the environment than plain old 100% fossil petrol. So how does this bioethanol substitute look to the cold calculating eye of full carbon accounting? It looks pretty damn good actually.
In fact, a comprehensive full carbon accounting of ethanol shows that it’ll do more to decarbonize EU transport than any other measure in the period up to 2020, and that these contributions will increase until such time as electric vehicles can fully kick in. How is this possible? Simple: it’s not just indirect land use change that is missing in the old EU carbon accounting models. It also down to the fact that the fossil fuel emissions calculations used in them don’t reflect real world conditions (think dieselgate!) and to the often overlooked engine efficiency improvements resulting from ethanol blending. iLUC accounting does indeed make bioethanol look a small bit less climate friendly (8-14 gCO2e/MJ to be precise1), but once you factor in the real carbon emissions of fossil fuel and the real engine efficiency improvements of ethanol then bioethanol blending looks very attractive.
Full carbon accounting needs to be just that. Full.
To those of you who understand the technicalities this means, for instance, that the RED fossil fuel comparator – a number which tells how much climate damaging CO2 gets released by fossil fuel – needs to be revised to 94.1 and possibly upwards to as high as 140 from its current non real world low of 83.8. Recent studies by the Commission and by expert analysts at Ecofys are in agreement on this.
In contrast, Europe’s homegrown climate friendly bioethanol comes in at just 47 grams of CO2 per unit, iLUC included, or around half the fossil equivalent. Bioethanol denial, like climate change denial, doesn’t stand up to science and facts. READ MORE