Proposed EU green jet fuel mandate risks incentivising fraud, MEP warns

The increase in the amount paid per litre of fuel comes amid rising fuel prices and aims to mitigate the impact on family budgets. [Jaromir Chalabala /]

A cap should be placed on the amount of low-carbon jet fuel produced from used cooking oil, according to one of the European Parliament’s lawmakers in charge of the bloc’s aviation fuel legislation proposal.

“Some of the sources for used cooking oil are not so well verified,” said Green MEP Jutta Paulus, who warns that incentivising higher quantities of the feedstock would encourage fraud.

“And from a chemical point of view, it’s almost impossible to determine whether this is really used cooking oil, or whether this is palm oil or any other virgin oil,” the German lawmaker told EURACTIV.

“What we’re trying to do is to show with this [proposed] cap that the supply of these biofuels is also limited. We saw in the past that there was a lot of fraud, because it’s incredibly difficult to determine if it really is used cooking oil or if it is a bit of used cooking oil and the rest is palm oil,” she added.

Paulus is the rapporteur for the European Parliament’s industry committee’s opinion on the ReFuelEU Aviation file, a legislative proposal put forward in July by the EU executive to cut flight emissions.

If passed, the legislation would greatly boost the amount of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) used in planes departing from EU airports. It sets mandatory percentages of SAF that must be blended with kerosene, which increase over time.

EU green jet fuel proposal shuns crop-based biofuels, focuses on next generation

Proposed EU legislation aimed at cutting flight emissions by ramping up the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) has excluded the use of first-generation biofuels, arguing they bring “limited environmental benefits”.

While in the long-term much of the SAF requirements is expected to be met with renewable electro-fuels, short term demand is satisfied mainly from used cooking oil, an affordable feedstock capable of being refined into jet fuel using mature technology.

Paulus has proposed a cap of 0.65 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) on green jet fuels produced from used cooking oil and animal fats, the two waste feedstocks set out in Part B of the Renewable Energy Directive’s Annex 9. This 0.65 Mtoe cap would come into effect in 2025 and remain in place through to 2050.

The draft opinion pushes for significantly higher SAF targets than those put forward by the European Commission. While the EU executive set a 63% SAF blend target by 2050, MEP Paulus would like to see all kerosene replaced by SAF by that date.

“By 2050 at the latest, all jet fuels could be sustainable and fully renewable-based,” states the draft Parliament text, seen by EURACTIV.

The Green MEP is also advocating much higher levels of e-kerosene from renewable sources in the SAF mix, calling for a minimum share of 2.33% synthetic aviation fuels by 2030 – more than triple the Commission’s proposal of 0.7% by the same date. 

This would rise to 47.8% by 2050 under Paulus’s proposal, significantly more than the Commission’s stated percentage of 28%.

New fraud investigation casts doubt over used cooking oil origins

A fresh biofuels fraud investigation in the Netherlands has once again shone a spotlight on the origin of imported used cooking oil (UCO) in the EU. 

Fraud risk

Questions have been raised over the quality of used cooking oil refined in the EU, with imports under particular scrutiny. Green campaigners fear that virgin palm oil, which has been linked to deforestation in tropical countries and is restricted in the EU, may be mixed with genuine waste oils to boost UCO quantities.

Around 1.5 million tonnes out of 2.8 million tonnes of UCO were imported into the EU in 2019 according to clean mobility NGO Transport & Environment, with around a third coming from China.

However, issues are not limited to outside of the bloc. This January saw police in the Netherlands conduct a criminal investigation into large-scale biodiesel fraud in the country. 

Police raided the offices and homes of employees of a Dutch agricultural company, seizing administrative documents related to the provision of “sustainable” biodiesel feedstock.

According to the Dutch infrastructure ministry, the company is suspected of illegally collecting animal fat and mixing it with used cooking oil, with the aim of trading the ‘new’ product as a raw material for sustainable biodiesel.

The company was not approved to collect animal fat and is alleged to have fraudulently issued a certificate of sustainability.

The fraudulent use of “proof of sustainability” certificates has led to more biodiesel sold than is possible to be produced sustainably, Dutch authorities say.

EU incapable of detecting fraud in biofuel imports, complainant says

The EU’s approach to monitoring fraud in the importation of used cooking oil (UCO) – a feedstock used to produce green biodiesel – is unfit for purpose, the complainant behind the EU ombudsman’s recent maladministration ruling has told EURACTIV.

Multipliers controversy

Critics, particularly in the crop-based biofuels industry, contend that the EU’s renewable energy targets for road transport have exacerbated the issue of UCO fraud. This is because of an incentive scheme, which allow waste-based biofuels to be double-counted towards the target.  

The EU uses multipliers to make it advantageous to opt for more expensive but cleaner fuels. Multipliers have boosted demand for waste-based biodiesel for road transport, but the Commission has proposed to limit multipliers to the maritime and aviation sectors under the revised renewable energy directive.

The waste-based biofuels industry has come out strongly against the Commission’s proposal to scrap multipliers for road transport fuels. They argue that it would diminish the use of waste-based fuels in favour of less green food and feedstock biofuels, which are blamed for causing deforestation.

The EU multiplier scheme has boosted the uptake of waste-based biofuels in countries that may otherwise have looked for more polluting alternatives, the industry asserts.

Whether multipliers are ultimately removed for road transport remains to be seen.

Lawmaker proposes raising EU green jet fuel target to 100% by 2050

A draft European Parliament report calls for greater ambition in the EU’s proposed green jet fuel law, including a higher percentage of mandatory sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for planes refuelling in the bloc.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]


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