Green groups: Biofuels, LNG should be excluded from FuelEU Maritime law

Biofuels and natural gas are not a sustainable alternative for the shipping industry’s decarbonization path, environmental groups said in a letter addressed to the European Commission.

Illustration;/Biofuel; Image credit: Stena Bulk

The 17 organizations believe that the EU should promote the use of green synthetic fuels, or e-fuels, by ships and planes as part of its upcoming maritime and aviation fuel laws.

Therefore, they argued that biofuels and natural gas should be excluded from the FuelEU Maritime law. 

“Support should also not be given under the ReFuelEU aviation law to crop-based biofuels in planes, which would emit more than the fossil fuels they replace, while there will not be enough advanced biofuels,” the groups said.

The green groups argue that crop-based biofuels do not provide significant carbon reductions compared to fossil fuels, adding that they create social injustices, including water scarcity and food price volatility.

On the other hand, advanced biofuels (biomethane or bioliquids) have sustainable feedstock limitations even to cater to the needs of sectors which are already reliant on fossil gas.

Finally, natural gas, being a fossil fuel, is linked to methane slips during production and also while used on board ships.

“This runs the risk of the EU investing billions of euros of public money in fossil natural gas infrastructure and ships, which are doomed to become stranded assets if the EU is to reach climate neutrality by 2050,” the letter stressed.

“To prevent this, the EU must discontinue its explicit support to LNG for ships and ensure that the FuelEU initiatives cover all emissions, including methane, and are based on full life-cycle analysis.”

The environmental groups believe that the production of sustainable renewable electro-fuels presents enormous economic and employment opportunities.

 “E-fuels offer a clean future for the shipping and aviation sectors, but also the fuels industry. The EU must give them the investment certainty they need to flourish by requiring all ships carrying EU trade and aircraft fuelling in Europe to progressively make the switch,” Delphine Gozillon, shipping policy officer at T&E, said.

As explained, e-fuels can drive investment and create employment in areas such as hydrogen fuel production, European shipbuilding and technology manufacturing, as well as energy transport infrastructure and R&D.

“Such a fuel strategy can succeed in decarbonizing these sectors when implemented alongside complementary policies including carbon pricing, efficiency improvements or demand mitigation in a manner appropriate to each sector,” the groups added.

The letter is being issued ahead of EC’s planned proposal of the FuelEU Maritime and ReFuelEU Aviation legislation which is set for July, 2021.

The decarbonization pathways of maritime and aviation transport will directly impact the EU’s ability to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.