Page 6 - European Energy Innovation - autumn 2018 publication
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6 Autumn 2018 European Energy Innovation

The future of fossil free
transport is not technology

By Kathleen Van Brempt (pictured), Member of the European Parliament

The European transport                    The same goes for offshore wind and      However, these benefits will not
            sector is responsible for     many other clean technologies. To get    emerge to the same extent in all
            around one quarter of         such technologies over the “valley of    possible policy scenarios. Scenarios
            EU’s total greenhouse gas     death”, some of them need a larger       that rely more on existing combustion
emissions and remains the only            R&D driven technology push and           engines on biofuels, cheaper
major European economic sector            more demand creating market pull.        produced outside Europe, can equally
in which GHG emissions have               However, once they crossed the valley    deliver greenhouse gas reductions.
increased. Congestion costs are rising    between the development stage and        But they will still leak capital abroad.
and the air in many of our cities         market commercialisation, move           The same goes for electrification
stays polluted. To cope with all our      forward on the “learning curve” and      based on large batteries requiring
societal challenges, we need a more       enjoy economies of scale, they often     enormous amounts of lithium and
electrified, decarbonised, energy         outperform existing technologies.        cobalt. We may not just exchange the
efficient, multimodal and clean           Specific support for some highly         role of foreign fossil fuels suppliers by
transport sector and a just transition    potential technologies at early stages   foreign battery suppliers that keeps
along the whole automotive value          of development might therefor be         us equally dependent on imports.
chain.                                    justifiable. That, for instance, is the
                                          case with zero-emission electric cars    Thirdly, technology neutrality
It is often said that in cleaning up the  that will play an indispensable role in  does not allow us to take proper
transport sector, politicians should      the decarbonisation of the transport     account of collateral benefits or
only agree on the final targets for CO2   sector, at a total cost of ownership     collateral damages caused by certain
reduction and polluting emissions in      that over time will be lower than        technologies. Cars with internal
a technology neutral way and leave        those of a traditional combustion        combustion engines that are running
it up to the market to figure out how     engine.                                  on advanced biofuels might lead to
these targets can be met. But, there                                               the same greenhouse gas savings,
are many arguments against a “policy      Secondly, technological neutrality       but are still emitting polluting
by objectives” approach.                  makes us blind for the macro-            nitrogen oxides and particulates and
                                          economic strategic impacts of            keep on producing engine noise.
First, under “technology neutral”         our policy choices. Decarbonising        On the contrary, electric cars have
policies new technologies with            transport is not only of utmost          multiple benefits in all these fields
enormous long-term potential might        importance to deliver on our climate     and can help us to meet our climate
never develop. Look for instance at       objectives. Each day the EU spends       goals and air quality standards at the
solar panels. Today, they are one of      around one billion € on imported         same time.
the cheapest ways to produce power.       fossil fuels coming from geopolitically
However, at start photovoltaic energy     instable regions. By transitioning to    Finally, running cars on “advanced
was more expensive than other ways        cost effective renewable power and       biofuels” or electrofuels produced
to produce renewable power.               electric cars, Europe will spend more    from surpluses of renewable power
                                          money on clean technology produced       might lead to the same greenhouse
If countries like Germany and Spain       at home and sending less money to        gas reductions. However, since
had not supported PV so fiercely in       fossil fuel producers overseas. This     these fuels are depending on limited
a non-technology neutral way, solar       will strengthen our competitiveness      feedstock, using them for cars makes
technology wouldn’t have matured.         and create millions of new jobs.         them no longer available for other

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