Fuels

Fuels

Choice of fuel makes a big difference to overall transportation emissions. Replacing fossil gasoline and diesel with low-carbon alternatives can substantially reduce the climate impact of cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships. But not all alternative fuels are improvements over fossil fuels. Biofuels can have complicated impacts on global emissions if they come from feedstocks and land that otherwise would be used for food, livestock feed, or materials. How petroleum is produced can also significantly affect its climate impact.

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About the program

Choice of fuel makes a big difference to overall transportation emissions. Replacing fossil gasoline and diesel with low-carbon alternatives can substantially reduce the climate impact of cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships. But not all alternative fuels are improvements over fossil fuels. Biofuels can have complicated impacts on global emissions if they come from feedstocks and land that otherwise would be used for food, livestock feed, or materials. How petroleum is produced can also significantly affect its climate impact.

ICCT’s fuels team works on identifying the fuels that offer the greatest carbon reductions based on lifecycle analysis that factors in emissions from the production of feedstock and fuel as well as indirect effects. Depending on methodology, lifecycle analyses can yield varying results, and ICCT researchers play an active role in the research community developing lifecycle analysis techniques, in addition to helping policy makers understand and use the results. ICCT also works to support the design and implementation of effective low-carbon fuel policies. The right incentives can drive reductions in the carbon intensity of the fuel mix while encouraging innovation and efficiency. We work with policymakers to answer questions such as how to ensure biofuel feedstock sustainability, how to account for indirect effects, and how to support the commercialization of emerging low carbon technologies.

Canada's Clean Fuel Standard and the role of indirect land-use change (ILUC)

Canada is developing a Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of its fuel mix. Canada's Clean Fuel Standard aims to reduce GHG emissions by 30 million tonnes of CO2e annually by 2030. However, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the agency in charge of developing the standard, doesn't plan on counting emissions from indirect land-use change (ILUC) when calculating the greenhouse gas savings of biofuels and bioenergy.

Stephanie Searle, ICCT's Fuels Program Lead, explains why by ignoring emissions from ILUC, the CFS could hit its target on paper but will fall far short in real GHG reductions, potentially wiping out total savings from Canada’s 2025 vehicle greenhouse gas standards.

—See "Canada lags the U.S. in climate accounting of biofuels," April 2018 blog

Recent publications

Final recast Renewable Energy Directive for 2021-2030 in the European Union

Overview of the transport fuels provisions in the final EU Renewable Energy Directive for 2021-2030.

2018.07.19 | Policy update
Global progress toward soot-free diesel vehicles in 2018

This report assesses progress in 2018 toward implementing the Climate and Clean Air Coalition's global strategy to introduce low-sulfur fuels and cleaner diesel vehicles.

2018.07.02 | Report
Compatibility of mid-level biodiesel blends in vehicles in Indonesia

Reviews the impact of mid-level biodiesel blends on materials and emissions in conventional diesel vehicles in the Indonesian context.

2018.04.17 | Working paper
See all publications

Staff blog

ICAO’s CORSIA scheme provides a weak nudge for in-sector carbon reductions

ICAO's Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation will probably not provide a meaningful framework to transition to alternative jet fuels.

Staff