Saving CO2 with biofuels until alternatives are available

24 April 2019

Interview with Ramon Werner

The oil industry is promoting renewable fuels to reduce CO2 emissions. In an interview with energate, Ramon Werner, President of Biofuels Switzerland and board member of the Petroleum Association, explains exactly what role this form of energy should play in climate policy.

energate: Mr Werner, how high is the domestic potential for biofuels?

Werner: According to Swiss standards, a significantly higher proportion of biofuels (7 and 5 per cent respectively) should be added to both fuel and combustibles than is actually the case. This would be the potential that could be utilised without any adjustments. This is demonstrated by the example of the EU, where the addition of up to 10 per cent ethanol is permitted.

energate: Where does the biofuel content of combustibles and fuels in Switzerland come from?

Werner: Mainly from Europe. According to the law, the organic components in the combustibles and fuels must not compete with food and animal feed production and must be environmentally compatible overall. If they fulfil these criteria, there is proof of this. The origin and composition are therefore traceable. There are various local producers in Switzerland who manufacture organic components for biofuels in accordance with these requirements. However, the proportion of imports is significantly higher.

energate: According to your statements, the costs for biofuels are only slightly more expensive than for conventional fuels. What role do political decisions play in this calculation?

Werner: Biofuels are exempt from mineral oil tax. However, the resulting tax shortfall is added to the fossil fuels. In this way, the federal government recovers the revenue. If this tax exemption were to be cancelled, biofuels would become significantly more expensive. The costs would be passed on to the consumer, which according to our calculations would increase the price of petrol by over 20 centimes. There would then be only one way to increase the proportion of organic components at petrol stations: A mandatory blending requirement. The same applies to fuels. Bio-components are exempt from the CO2 tax.

energate: The industry has already spoken out against such an obligation.

Werner: The current exemption of biofuels from mineral oil tax and the compensation of the resulting loss of income via fossil energy is the right way forward for us. It took a long time for the stakeholders involved to establish the system, but today it is well established. A change would set us back years again. As mentioned, Switzerland is stricter in its assessment of biofuels than the EU. What is exciting for us in the discussion is whether politicians want to maintain these requirements. The Federal Council has spoken out in favour of harmonising the legislation with that of the EU. As an industry, we would welcome this.

energate: They also want biofuels for the heating market, i.e. fuels, to be better categorised. In addition to recognition by the FOEN, they are calling for the identification of products via customs tariff numbers and the introduction of mass balancing. Where do you stand on this?

Werner: Mass balancing is dependent on political processes that cannot be accelerated. Recognition by the FOEN could be implemented within a few months. We are in talks with those responsible. We will probably have to speak to the Directorate General of Customs again at the highest level. The willingness to identify our products using customs tariff numbers is known to be relatively low. But I am confident and have not had the experience that anyone in the institutions is opposed to our concerns on fundamental grounds.

energate: How do you perceive public opinion on the subject of biofuels?

Werner: Some people accuse us of wanting to prolong the life of fossil fuels with biofuels. That is not the case. It makes sense that we are looking for ways to develop new market models to replace fossil fuels. But in Switzerland, most buildings are still heated with oil and only a small proportion of vehicles currently run without a combustion engine. The latter is reflected in the number of new registrations every year.

energate: What role can biofuels play here?

Werner: By using biofuels, we are saving CO2 in the short term until we have developed alternatives to fossil fuels. So we are not prolonging the life of these forms of energy, but are using common sense. In Switzerland alone, we can save 550,000 tonnes of CO2 per year in the transport sector by using biofuels. It is undisputed that society wants to move away from oil. The oil industry itself also accepts this goal. But the development must be sensible and sustainable. And it must be affordable. If the costs are too high, new solutions will not stand a chance with the majority of the population.

Source:, 24.04.2019


Biofuels Switzerland
Swiss Biofuels Association
Bahnhofstrasse 9
CH-4450 Sissach