From farms to fuel tanks unsustainability of animal fat biofuels grows


Europe – Europe’s increasing reliance on animal fats as a source of biofuels for cars and planes is facing sustainability challenges, according to a study by Transport & Environment (T&E).

The surge in the use of animal fat biodiesel over the past decade, driven by efforts to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, is now straining the availability of animal fats. With projections indicating a tripling of animal fat biofuel consumption by 2030, T&E warns of potential shortages and detrimental consequences.

European lawmakers have supported the use of animal fat biodiesel as a by-product of industrial meat farming, but this has created competition with other industries. Nearly half of all European animal fats are already used in biodiesel, impacting sectors such as pet food, soaps, and cosmetics. T&E emphasizes the need for greater transparency to inform consumers about the origins of the fuels they use.

SAF production

Major airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air have secured deals for “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAFs), with projections suggesting that animal fats will be a prevalent feedstock in SAF production. However, the limited availability of animal fats poses a challenge, as scaling up industrial meat farming is impractical and undesirable. T&E’s calculations indicate that a single flight from Paris to New York would require the use of 8,800 deceased pigs.

This situation poses a dilemma for industries heavily reliant on animal fats, such as pet food, soap, and cosmetics. With limited alternatives, these industries may be forced to switch to less sustainable options like palm oil, which has its own environmental concerns. T&E urges policymakers to exclude category 3 animal fats from the list of eligible biofuel feedstocks and highlights the potential for fraudulent practices due to mislabeling and downgrading of higher-grade animal fats.

Industrial-scale fraud

The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) incentivizes the production of animal fats for transport fuels, prioritizing categories 1 and 2 for renewable targets. However, discrepancies between reported consumption and production figures raise suspicions of mislabeling and potential fraud. T&E warns that intentional downgrading of higher-quality animal fats to meet renewable targets would constitute industrial-scale fraud.

As the demand for biofuels continues to grow, Europe must confront the sustainability challenges associated with the rising use of animal fats. Ensuring transparency, promoting alternatives, and addressing potential fraudulent practices are vital steps toward a more sustainable and responsible biofuel industry.