UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, 1 year later: what does it mean for China?

The UK’s Renewble Fuels Agency recently released its first year annual report.  In the 2008-09 season, the UK provided some 50 billion litres of fuels for road transportation, and this time around, 2.6% of it was biofuel, in conforming with the UK’s biofuel policy, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).

Since 2008, all companies which provide more than 450,000 litres of fossil fuels for UK road transport are required to mix a certain percentage of biofuels into their fuels.  In the 2008-09 season, the first year of the programme, the target was 2.5%.  For the 2009-10 season, a target of 3.25% has been decided upon.  In fact, in the first year of the policy, already 2.6% of fuels provided were biofuels.  With a reported 47% Greenhouse Gas savings in biofuel according to the data reported by fuel suppliers, the policy has already resulted in 1.2% GHG savings in the transport sector compared to if they had provided 100% fossil fuel.

China’s biofuels right now make up about 0.81% of the fuel supply, and they are made mostly from corn ethanol (about 1 million tons/year corn ethanol).  Based on international experience with corn-based ethanol that uses coal for its process heat, GHG savings of between 0 and 20% or so can be achieved compared to gasoline.  Based on this information, we can see that right now, as a very rough estimate, China’s biofuels are optimistically delivering a GHG savings of 0.16%.

Imagine if China developed a policy like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which aims to reduce GHG emissions from fuel in the road transport sector by 10% by 2020?  Or the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive which aims to reduce fuel GHG emissions by 6% through biofuel use and refinery efficiencies?  Such policy would give real direction to China’s fuel producers, allowing them to understand their roles in the fight against climate change, and giving government a perspective from which to set policies on new fuel technologies.

I wrote a brief review on the RTFO policy and RFA’s annual report, which is posted at iCET’s website.   Check out the rest there!

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