Low-carbon liquid fuels have the potential to play a big part in the government delivering on its 2050 carbon emission targets, Jamie Baker, UKPIA’s director of external relations stressed at last month’s Forecourt Trader Summit.

“We think electrification has a large role to play in certain applications; but there are a number of areas that are very difficult to de-carbonise,” he said.

“Only last week government announced it wanted a ban on combustion engines by 2035, maybe 2032. That’s come forward from 2040 which was announced two years ago.

But currently of the 36/37 million vehicles on the road everyday - almost all are run on a liquid hydrocarbon.

“The means by which the government is trying to reduce the carbon intensity of the transport system, by picking one technology over another - in this case electricity over every other - is not necessarily something we think is going to be the way forward. We think maybe there’s an opportunity to use the existing infrastructure - the forecourts, the pipelines, the tankers to deliver - in order to meet those de-carbonisation goals.”

Baker said the government was under pressure from various eco campaigners who want action today; who believe what the government committed to five years ago simply wasn’t good enough. “They want to see actual change today. Perhaps the government has played to the crowd a little bit, in saying electric vehicles are zero emission so they’re going to push those very hard to a difficult timetable.

“It is very difficult to deliver that many electric vehicles in the timelines they are talking about.

Nonetheless UKPIA and its members do agree that there is change to come and combustion engines are an area we can look at as potentially being part of the option.”

Baker said low-carbon liquid fuels, which are not used in big numbers yet, could reduce total life-cycle GHG emissions by a considerable amount – up to 80%. “And that’s actually pretty equivalent to what you see in electric vehicles once you take into account the difficulty of building bigger batteries.”

Low-carbon technologies can be categorised into four over-arching types, which are featured in UKPIA’s ‘Future Vision’ report, published last July, explained Baker: bio-based, waste-based, power-based and fossil-based. “We have proof they can happen and they can come to market.”

“Let there be more than one answer. Government has a history of hitting winners, but it also gets a lot of things wrong. Essentially the answer is, if you allow a number of technologies to develop, you will have a better opportunity of offering the best consumer outcome.”