* EU presidency to deliver progress report in June
* Draft law proposes minimum number of green fuel stations
* Member states want flexibility, worried by deadline
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, March 11 Europe will lag China, Japan
and the United States unless it embraces a proposed law
requiring millions of new refuelling points across the European
Union for electric and natural gas vehicles, the EU transport
boss said on Monday.
EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas was kicking off the
first ministerial debate on a proposal some in the industry say
is the most significant yet for alternative transport fuel.
Its aim is to overcome the infrastructure bottlenecks that
have deterred development of electric and natural gas vehicles
because there is no refuelling network to support them.
"Our competitors Japan, China and the United States are
moving towards these targets," Kallas told Monday's debate of EU
On member-state concern about cost, rigid targets and a 2020
deadline for achieving them, he said the European Commission was
willing to be flexible and the private sector would pay.
"My general idea is that the necessary investment should be
done by the private sector," he said, adding that industry had
supported the proposal.
The Commission, the 27-country EU's executive arm, is
seeking to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuel as part of
aims to improve security of supply and cut carbon emissions.
To make the transport sector greener, it is seeking to
enforce tougher carbon emissions standards, as well as to tackle
a huge shortage of green refuelling points.
The draft law on reducing dependency on fossil fuel for
transport proposes minimum numbers of electricity, hydrogen,
biofuel and natural gas refuelling points.
The NGVA (Natural and bioGas Vehicle Association), which
represents natural gas vehicles, says biogas means that
eventually natural gas vehicles need not use fossil fuels.
"It is the most important policy initiative by the European
Commission for our industry and creates confidence at both
industry and customer level," Matthias Maedge, EU affairs
manager at the NGVA, told Reuters. "The main bottleneck is
access to refuelling."
Eurelectric, which represents the electricity sector in
Europe, also welcomed Monday's debate.
"We don't see Europe behind yet, but there is a danger,"
Gunnar Lorenz, head of Eurelectric's Networks Unit, said, adding
that roughly 50 percent of EU electricity is carbon-free,
including nuclear generation.
Major oil companies did not wish to comment.
EU member Britain, which has an interest in Anglo-Dutch oil
major Royal Dutch Shell, broadly supported the proposed
law, but with reservations.
"Clear, strong action will be necessary to achieve our
targets," Patrick McGloughlin, Britain's transport minister,
told Monday's debate. "We therefore support efforts, but we
remain technology-neutral and it would be inappropriate to
favour or appear to favour specific technology."
He also called for flexibility and said: "Member states must
be able to set their own targets."
Leo Varadkar, transport minister for Ireland, which holds
the rotating EU presidency, said the presidency aimed to deliver
a progress report before the end of June.
"This is a really ambitious proposal which has the potential
to unleash a clean-power revolution in transport across Europe,"