. There is a call for stricter regulations on the importation of biofuels in order to eliminate fraudulent practices concerning palm oil.
Campaigners are warning that stricter regulations are necessary to guarantee that the “used” cooking oil being imported by airlines for cleaner flights is not actually virgin palm oil.
Around 80% of used oil is brought in from other countries to produce biofuels, which are primarily utilized in automobiles, vans, and trucks, despite a rising need in the aviation industry. China accounts for approximately 60% of these imports.
Investigations have revealed instances of fraud, indicating that a significant portion of imports may be falsely labeled as waste rather than repurposed palm oil products. Despite initially being considered a renewable source, crop-based biofuels are now causing deforestation and exacerbating emissions.
A recent study conducted by the European NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) revealed that as European countries attempted to restrict the use of biofuels derived from crops, there was a rapid increase in demand for waste oil that couldn’t be met.
The use of previously used cooking oils in Europe has increased by over two times since 2015, primarily for the purpose of powering ground transportation. This demand is predicted to continue rising as airlines advocate for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In fact, a transatlantic flight sponsored by the UK government and operated by Virgin Atlantic was powered solely by SAF made from waste cooking oil last month.
T&E reported significant worries regarding the imported products. Barbara Smailagic, a specialist in biofuels from the NGO, stated: “There is a concerning influx of unreliable used cooking oil into Europe. European authorities claim that it is extremely difficult to prevent virgin oils, such as palm oil, from being falsely labeled as waste. We require increased transparency and restrictions on imports to prevent used cooking oil from becoming a loophole for the promotion of deforestation-driven palm oil.”
Germany and Ireland are initiating official inquiries into potential fraud, as the European Commission has pledged to investigate fraudulent biodiesel from Indonesia.
According to T&E, imports of palm oil biodiesel have decreased by nearly 30%, but there has been an increase in derivatives of the oil labeled as “waste” or “residues”. T&E noted that this still has notable environmental consequences.
Smailagic stated that Europe continuously seeks new things to incinerate and that there is a scarcity of sustainable materials for biofuel production. He emphasized the need to shift our perspective on biofuels as a solution to the climate crisis.
The report suggests that biofuels should be gradually replaced by direct use of electricity for road transportation, while reserving truly sustainable fuels for aviation.
EU airlines will be required to incorporate a minimum of 6% SAF into their total fuel consumption by the end of the 2020s. They aim to increase this percentage even further, but current production levels are significantly below the demand.
The United Kingdom has not yet produced SAF on a large scale, but the government plans to have five plants being built by 2025. They also aim to require airlines to use 10% SAF by 2030.
Numerous environmental organizations hold the belief that the only truly sustainable fuel for aviation is synthetic kerosene, which is produced through the use of green hydrogen and directly reducing carbon dioxide. However, there are concerns about the significant quantity of renewable energy needed to produce it.