An underestimation of the expected surge in emissions from oil-based fossil fuels could undermine the EU’s climate goals, the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) warned.

Greenhouse gas emissions from oil will reach record levels in future, according to a new study presented by the EBB.

It urged the European Commission to take this into account in the implementation of its fuel quality and renewable energy directives so as not to give fossil fuels an advantage over other fuels.

The research, carried out by environmental consultancy ERA, argued that more intensive use of existing oil fields is hiking emissions from conventional oil. In addition, the depletion of oil wells is reducing production of conventional oil, which must then be replaced by unconventional oil, the emissions from which are up to 2.5 times greater as a result of more energy-intensive extraction techniques.

This means that even if demand were to remain constant, CO2 emissions from transport would grow from eight billion to 10 billion tonnes by 2030, the report concluded. But biodiesel producers are concerned that the Commission’s implementation of the fuel quality and renewables directives does not fully take this increase into account.

Under the EU Renewable Energies Directive, biofuels can only be accounted for if they produce emissions savings of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels. The Commission is now working to develop a methodology for calculating the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of diesel and petrol under the Fuel Quality Directive, against which renewable fuels will be benchmarked to deem whether they produce sufficient emissions savings.

Biodiesel producers, however, raised concerns that the Commission appears to be underestimating the increase in oil emissions in its deliberations over a methodology for measuring the greenhouse gas performance of fossil fuels. This could then punish biofuels, as they would compare unfavourably to fossil fuels, it said.

Raffaello Garofalo, EBB secretary-general, warned that “a system that creates a heavy economic and administrative burden for biofuels and leaves fossil fuels free from this same burden would be a failure”.

He further pointed to the lack of representation of the biofuel and agriculture industries in the working group developing the calculation methodology, calling for the transparent calculation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EBB argued that biofuels are already been dealt much more stringent sustainability and emissions-saving requirements than fossil fuels. Further measures could “severely impede future trade in biofuels” while jeopardising the EU’s goal to cut emissions by 20% by 2020, it added.