Oil dependency in the EU

Oil Dependency in the EU for Transport & Environment assesses the EU-27’s oil dependency and the risks associated with imported oil, building on previous analysis carried out in 2016 and 2018 (see below).

The report comprises two parts: a review of historical data on oil dependency in the EU; and an assessment of the EU’s consumption and imports of biofuels.

Oil imports

The first set of findings outlines the degree to which the EU continues to be dependent on oil imports to meet its energy needs, particularly for its transport sector. This trend has been exacerbated by the departure of the UK from the EU, which had accounted for 70% of the EU’s crude oil extraction. With this departure, the EU now relies on imports for 96% of its crude oil supply, spending €211bn in total (around €470 per capita per year).

These crude imports help meet the EU’s demand for oil and petroleum products, which account for nearly half of the EU’s final energy consumption.* The transportation sector is the main driver of this demand, accounting for two thirds of final oil and petroleum consumption.

Such dependence on oil imports for the EU’s energy supply creates risks surrounding the security of that supply, especially since the majority of these imports are sourced from geopolitically unstable regions such as Russia and the Middle East.

Biofuels imports

The second set of findings relates to the EU’s promotion of liquid biofuels as an alternative to oil-based fuels. This transformation has been particularly targeted at the transportation sector, where liquid biofuels now account for 6% of total energy use. As a result, imports of liquid biofuels have risen 43-fold between 2000 and 2018, while imports of the plant-based raw materials used to produce them have also risen (although some of the latter will also have had non-energy-related final uses such as food production).

However, these liquid biofuels are in fact often more carbon-polluting than their fossil fuel equivalents, typically due to the impact of indirect land-use change, such as deforestation, that occurs as a result of their production. Palm-oil based biodiesel, among the most destructive biofuels, accounts for over half of all liquid biofuel imports, and a fifth of all liquid biofuels produced in the EU.

This report has also highlighted the inadequacies of the data collected by Eurostat on the country of origin of the EU’s liquid biofuels imports. This information is crucial in assessing the environmental impacts of the EU’s biofuels consumption, yet it is missing for over half of the EU’s liquid biofuels imports.

Further reading

10 years of failed fuels policies in Europe: how to break our oil addiction

Europe’s deepening dependency on foreign oil

Previous reports

Oil Dependency in the EU (2018)

A Study on Oil Dependency in the EU (2016)

* ‘Final energy consumption’ does not include energy used to produce electricity.