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Fossil fuels 'to dominate for next 30 years'

Motorists will continue to depend on fossil fuels for at least another 30 years because the alternatives are either impractical or prohibitively expensive, according to an oil industry study.

Less environmentally damaging fuels, such as hydrogen or biodiesel from oilseed rape, will play only a minor role in reducing Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The study by the UK Petroleum Industry Association, entitled Future Road Fuels, found drivers unwilling to pay extra for cleaner fuel. Rising income levels also prompted people to buy larger, less fuel-efficient cars.

The association predicted Britain would fail to meet the voluntary European target set by car manufacturers for cutting carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles by 2008.

The car industry is now lobbying for a new target which it would be allowed at least a decade to achieve.

Malcolm Watson, author of the association’s study, says: “Petrol and diesel will remain the main road transport fuels well beyond 2030. They have unique advantages in being easy to handle and having high energy density and wide availability.”

Hydrogen, which has been widely heralded as offering the potential for zero emission motoring, will not be available from renewable sources until after 2020.

Even then, the energy industry will face the major challenges of storing and distributing the highly flammable gas.

Watson says hydrogen fuel cell cars, which emit only water, would be produced in significant quantities only after 2030. Even then, they would account for only one in ten cars sold.

Biodiesel is already being blended with conventional diesel and sold at 100 filling stations. But the association said biofuels faced the “major hurdle” of being two to three times more expensive to produce than diesel.

The study found that the only practical way to reduce greenhouse gases from road transport would be to accelerate production of hybrid vehicles which contain both an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine.

(Source: The Times)

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