MEPs urge European Commission to reveal origins of used cooking oil – EURACTIV.com
EU green lawmakers have sent an official letter asking the European Commission to provide data on the origins and quantities of used cooking oil (UCO) imported into the bloc, putting further pressure on the EU executive to clear up fraud concerns regarding UCO imports.
The letter from the deputies follows a finding of “bad administration” against the European Commission by the EU Ombudsman, a Strasbourg-based watchdog, for refusing to provide information on UCO imports following a citizen request.
Addressing the heads of the Commission’s environment, transport and green deals portfolios, five MEPs from the Greens/EFA group highlighted a recent report by the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT) which suggests that a large Some of the UCOs imported into the EU could be fraudulent, with restricted palm oil used to inflate the batches.
“It is particularly disappointing that the Commission is not disclosing this information given the serious concerns about the origin of biofuels used in Europe and the fact that this information is in the public interest,” the letter states.
“By refusing to release this information, the Commission is only fueling concerns about such fraud and ultimately undermining the credibility of sustainability efforts in transport,” MEPs wrote.
The five MEPs – Ciarán Cuffe, Jutta Paulus, Ville Niinistö, Martin Häusling and Rasmus Andresen – called for all data obtained under the voluntary certification programs to be made public and sent to the European Parliament by Friday 29 April .
Under voluntary certification schemes, private entities must submit annual reports to the European Commission on the production and import of certified biofuel feedstocks, such as UCOs.
A citizen request for information on the import of UCO in 2020 was refused by the European Commission on the grounds that the information was not contained in a single document.
The complainant sought the assistance of the European Ombudsman, who informed the Commission that he would accept the documents in a fragmented form. However, the Commission continued to withhold the data, a decision the ombudsman called a “deliberate and inexplicable refusal” to settle the case.
In a written statement, the European Commission rejected the ombudsman’s recommendations and confirmed its decision not to provide the documents.
The Ombudsman later found the European Commission guilty of maladministration for its refusal to cooperate with the complainant, writing in her judgment that the Commission’s actions “contravene the principles of friendliness to citizens and spirit of service”.
According to MEP Cuffe, one of the signatories of the letter, the behavior of the Commission raises concerns.
“With this judgment of maladministration and allegations of fraud in the biofuels sector, it seems the Commission has something to hide,” the Irish MEP told EURACTIV.
“I urge the Commission to publish all the information it has on biofuels so that lawmakers on Fit for 55 dossiers are fully aware of the associated risks,” he added.
According to the proposals presented by the Commission, biofuels derived from UHCs should play a key role in the decarbonisation of the EU transport sector. However, the EU is unable to produce enough UCO to meet the bloc’s demand, leading to high levels of imports, mainly from Asia.
The Commission’s proposals would channel waste-based biofuels into hard-to-electrify modes of transport such as shipping and aviation. All jet aircraft refueling at EU airports will be required to increase a set percentage of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) under the proposed ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation.
While electrofuels are expected to be predominant in the long term, in the short term waste-based biofuels are likely to meet the majority of SAF demands in the EU.
Given the potential for fraud, Cuffe called for a cap on the amount of biofuels that can count toward green jet fuel targets.
On March 10, the European Commission adopted tougher standards for certification schemes, imposing tighter controls on the UCO supply chain – a move widely welcomed by the waste-based biofuels industry.
Brussels has also pledged to roll out its much-delayed biofuels track and trace database by January 1, 2023. The database will record all feedstock and biofuel transactions, allowing regulators and customers to validate the sustainability of biofuels.
These additional protections have been hailed as positive steps by the European Waste and Advanced Biofuels Association (EWABA).
“We are particularly pleased because the database will go well beyond the cramped [Renewable Energy Directive] because it will ensure full traceability to the point of origin of the raw material. Once both systems are in place, there will be no more opportunities for questionable market practices,” Angel Alberdi, secretary general of EWABA, told EURACTIV.
Alberdi also called for a cap to be placed on the use of waste oil for the production of jet fuel, arguing that the process of refining UCO into aviation fuel is much more energy intensive than doing it for road vehicles. or ships, which makes it less climatic. efficient.
“It is true that waste and residues are limited by nature, which is why the European legislator must use them in the most efficient way. Prioritizing used oils for aviation over road (especially heavy-duty) and marine use is the wrong policy choice,” Alberdi said.
“This prioritization will deal a severe blow to the waste-based and advanced biodiesel industry with production facilities in rural areas of most EU Member States, and above all, will significantly limit investment in new technologies. Essential SAFs using scalable raw materials,” he added.
Electric fuels are currently available in paltry quantities and are very expensive, meaning that significant investment will be needed to scale up production to meet future demand.
EWABA expressed concern that cheaper waste-based biofuel feedstocks will be appropriated by the aviation industry, leaving a shortfall for the decarbonisation of other modes of transport, increasing global transport emissions.