Electro mobility gets the thumbs up

Electro mobility is the buzz word in transport decarbonisation at COP 24. Everywhere you go, EV’s dominate discussion on the thorny problem of controlling carbon emissions from the world’s rapidly growing transport fleet. There was (almost) no mention of the only technology that has reduced these emissions at scale to date — biofuels.  Nor of the fact that it will be the major technology in decarbonising transport through to 2050 according to the IPCC.  By 2050, renewably fuelled EV’s should just about catch up with biofuels (see chart 1).  This assumes that power systems will be decarbonised and there is huge investment in infrastructure to support EV’s.

EV’s are, of course, a meritorious and essential technology for transport decarbonisation.  But it is universally recognised that EV’s cannot do it alone.  Which makes it all the more strange that the most important technology for the next (critical for 1.5 degree) 12 years, sustainable biofuels, feature as a very minor bit player at the UNFCCC conference. But for Climate Ethanol Alliance they would not be represented at all.

There were, at least, a couple of attempts to swim against the tide.  At a COP 24 plenary session in which IPCC presented its 1.5-degree report, both Scania and PSA strongly advocated plug in hybrids as a key step in decarbonising transport.  Grégoire Olivier General Secretary of Groupe PSA said PSA is committing to a full range of PHEV’s.  Executive VP of Scania, Mathias Carlbaum, called for a stable regulatory environment to aid the transition and for consideration to be given to alternatives such as biofuels.

The panellist’s expressed concern about cost parity and recognised the need for subsidies and regulatory support to make EV’s competitive.  Nowhere was there a mention of the fact that safe, clean, biofuels such as ethanol, has the lowest carbon abatement cost of sustainable alternative fuels.

The silence on biofuels is as deafening as the din about electro mobility.  Strange for a conference dedicated to technology neutral solutions to the climate challenge and claiming that it is essential to use all available pathways if climate goals are to have a chance of success.