EU energy policy: dead end for the truck? | Opinion - My Blog
Trucks

EU energy policy: dead end for the truck? | Opinion

As the calendar moves towards 2030 and the Fit For 55, the dimension of the enormous gap that exists between the stubborn reality (technological, economic and industrial) and the discourse of the political leaders of the EU, which seem clouded with the idea that decarbonizing transport is synonymous with electrifying it and banish the combustion engine. In view of this abyss through which the competitiveness of our economies can fall, it seems that some legislators of the 27 are beginning to realize that it is more appropriate to lean towards a practical (and sensible) approach that contemplates a possible energy mix instead of impose the all or nothing of electric mobility for passengers and goods.

There will be those who call me too optimistic in this assessment just when the European Parliament has just approved the elimination of the sale of cars with internal combustion engines in 2035 and the inclusion of road transport in the European CO2 emissions market (ETS) in 2025, something that, according to some estimates by specialized organizations, could increase the energy cost per kilometer traveled in the case of trucks or coaches by more than 20%, depending on the price reached by the equivalent ton of CO2 in that market . Market that, on the other hand, is not without a growing speculative component, far from the productive economy. An increase in costs for transport that will lead to the consequent deterioration of the competitiveness of economic activity in the EU, especially if all this is not accompanied by a global review of the tax scheme supported by our transport companies to avoid paying redundant taxes .

At this point, it is convenient to frame the issue of road transport in the broad context of the Fit For 55, which implies a titanic investment effort of nearly 400,000 million euros per year. A formidable challenge that means that in the eight years remaining until 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU are reduced by 1,373 megatons of CO2 equivalent.

To get an idea, from 1991 to 2020 the reduction achieved was around 1,220 megatons, that is, 20% compared to 1990. Well, all this extraordinary reduction in European emissions does not even compensate for the increase in GHG registered by China between 2018 and 2021, which places that nation at the head of the ranking of emissions, with 30% of the world total, almost doubling the second, the US, and tripling the EU.

Returning to the road, I would like to remind the reader that road freight transport is strategic for global economic development, as it is an essential element of any supply and distribution chain. In Spain, 95% of the land movement of our goods is carried out by road, and 75% of our exports to Europe are transported by truck. Any action that entails risks for the economic and social sustainability of this activity should be evaluated as many times as possible with the participation of the sector.

The technological and industrial reality on which we can, as a sector, support our climate challenge is expressed clearly and emphatically: it is not possible. It took us a quarter of a century to transition from the ubiquitous diesel to coexistence with vehicular natural gas, which already has a small market share in truck and coach registrations, the technological and industrial leap being infinitely smaller than the one that changing to electric traction. Does anyone really think that in a few years we are going to achieve large volumes of electric trucks capable of transporting 40 tons of fruit from Madrid to Prague? Electric mobility is far from being viable to a sufficient extent for us to be able to replace the current medium and long-distance heavy vehicles with these new variants. In addition to working, they must be reliable in their operations; affordable and economically productive; and have the guarantee of being able to face substantial volumes of sales.

In this energy transition that the EU demands of us and whose final objective we share, our sector does not turn its back on electrification, but until electric batteries manage to move these vehicles beyond 800 km, let us now focus on the viable green energies of the that we currently have. In our country alone we have more than 11,800 gas stations and 209 gas stations. Why not take advantage of them to propel our trucks with eco-fuels and natural gas? Let us take advantage of these transitional energy alternatives, capable of reducing our emissions immediately and, furthermore, compatible with the combustion engine used by our trucks, and with the existing distribution, refueling and repair infrastructures.

Every day we have breakfast with news about our tremendous energy dependence and its negative consequences for our already battered economy: higher prices and a skyrocketing energy deficit that already exceeds 11,000 million euros. In this context, ecofuels, whose manufacturing uses alternative raw materials to oil, would guarantee our energy independence by using raw materials produced in national territory, such as sustainable biomass, renewable hydrogen, captured carbon or waste, whether agricultural , forest or urban.

Political leadership over technology is wrong. We must commit to a neutral, realistic, practical and sensible approach, which includes a range of energy alternatives such as eco-fuels (bio and synthetic), hydrogen and batteries or even the use of trucks equipped with pantographs on electrified roads, as It has already been tested in some countries.

Otherwise, I very much fear that the EU’s energy policy will be a dead end.

Ramon Valdivia He is Executive Vice President of Astic (Association of International Road Transport)