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    French Report: LNG as a Road Fuel Could Help France Meet Emissions Targets

Summary

A French report suggests that LNG may be very effective to meet new environmental standards while the government plans to close the tax break for diesel cars.

by: Kevin Bonnaud

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Featured Articles, Carbon, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), France

French Report: LNG as a Road Fuel Could Help France Meet Emissions Targets

A new government report from France's energy and environment ministry released earlier this month suggests that developing liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a road fuel may be the most effective way to meet the new environmental standards set by national and European legislation. The change could also assist in achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets that may come out of the climate change conference in Paris (COP 21).

Under the energy transition law voted on earlier this year, France's government has to present to the French parliament a detailed report of nitrogen oxide and particles from the transportation industry followed by a debate. Using liquefied natural gas may be the way to implement this requirement, the report suggests. "Road freight transport vehicles using LNG would emit two thirds less of nitrogen oxide and almost no particles than diesel vehicles," the document says. 

The European Union aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. "The development of LNG as transportation fuel is part of the European Union commitment to reduce emissions of air pollutants in the transport sector."

The report also recommends the evaluation of Bio-LNG in terms of carbons emissions reductions and says it is necessary to discuss tax policies surrounding natural gas fuel.

The end of diesel?

Meanwhile, the French government has recently rekindled a debate on fuel taxes aimed to close a tax break for diesel. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said during an interview on French radio network RTL that "reducing the tax rate gap between gasoline and diesel is a legitimate debate." Diesel is taxed currently at 20 cents cheaper per litre than gasoline (petrol).

As a result of the lower tax on diesel prices, a growing majority of French drivers have bought a car with a diesel engine. Diesel engines now represent 80% of the car population in France. "It’s a legitimate concern for many French people giving the impact on air quality," Valls said in the interview.

In a recent survey from French car website Voitures.com, 51% of respondents said they would opt for a diesel car because of lower fuel prices while 61% would not consider buying a gasoline car because of higher prices. To narrow the gap, the government will raise taxes on diesel by one cent per litre a year in 2016 and 2017 and cut taxes on gasoline at the same time. Energy Minister Marie-Ségolène Royal has called for ending the tax cuts on gasoline fuel in five years in a "smart way," including giving larger environmentally devised bonuses to drivers who buy clean-fuel cars.

France vs. The European Commission

The end of diesel may not happen tomorrow. Following the Volkswagen scandal--in which the company admitted to installing software that could detect diesel emissions were being tested and that could reduce emissions in those tests to improve results--the European Commission has set new but less restrictive standards of polluting gases emissions for diesel engines. Nitrogen oxide emissions can now exceed 110% of the current cap 80 mg/km cap until 2020 and then 50% after 2020. 

Minister Ségolène Royal expressed her frustration over this latest decision, calling for a "clarification meeting." 

"There is a lack of understanding among environmentalists after the new ruling which is not satisfactory," she said.

The Energy and Environment minister thinks that this kind of decisions should not be made by eurocrats but at a political level which means by EU ministers, including herself.

One of her critics among the Greens implied that the minister is playing politics. "She is lying to the French people by pretending that she was not aware of the decision," said Noël Mamère, a well-known environmentally focused lawmaker who ran for president in 2002.

Kevin Bonnaud