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PREMIA — Result In Brief

Project ID: 503081
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: Belgium

Old questions about oil, a few new answers about biofuels

Assessing the effectiveness of measures taken to support the introduction of biofuels in certain European countries can deliver important insights into how their wider adoption can be accelerated. This was the focus of the Premia project, funded under the Sixth Framework Programme.
Old questions about oil, a few new answers about biofuels
Hydrogen and biofuels have been portrayed as a practical, yet problematic option to meeting the increasing needs for transport fuels. And this is reflected in their widely varying uptake across Europe. For example, pure vegetable oil (PVO) is more or less prohibited in France and Italy. In Germany and Austria, on the other hand, it is the fuel of choice for a fleet of more than 10,000 vehicles.

Furthermore, as a result of biofuels' high profile, much discussion has been raised regarding emissions and engine compatibility. Under certain test conditions, vegetable oils generate unacceptably high levels of hazardous air pollutants. Still, emissions from diesel engines fuelled with conventional diesel are probably more toxic. Such controversies need to be discussed across the entire range of alternative vehicle fuels.

The EU-funded project Premia sought to illustrate the various aspects under which biofuels must be analysed and compared, not only against conventional transport fuels, but also against each other. The starting point was a review of past experiences with biofuels and other renewable energy policies and their impact at various stages in the fuel chain.

Issues that may arise if biofuels are widely adopted without protective measures were highlighted. Implementing the ambitious global biofuel targets for 2020 can push crop prices upwards. Furthermore, converting land to produce biofuels, and displacing agricultural activities may decrease and even turn any greenhouse gas emission reductions into a net increase.

However, measures to reduce these risks and negative impacts are at hand. Policy measures that stimulate higher agricultural productivity can increase supply and reduce future land demand for food, feed and fuels. Second generation biofuels produced from residues and crops cultivated on marginal lands will not compete with food crops.

The next step was to assess the effectiveness of measures supporting the adoption of alternative vehicle fuels in the pioneering European countries. The Premia partners analysed the strengths and weaknesses of biofuel support policies and explored possible scenarios for the potential impact in the long-term. They came to the conclusion that important pre-conditions such as fuel standards and compatibility with engines are already in place or are being introduced on an EU-wide basis.

The Premia study is bringing Europe further toward fulfilling targets for replacement of fossil fuels with sustainable alternatives. In-depth data has provided the complete picture for the biofuel option.

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