EU Ethanol producers challenge RefuelEU Aviation, calling it discriminatory


European renewable ethanol producers are taking the EU to court over the bloc’s RefuelEU Aviation Regulation charging that it improperly excludes crop-based biofuels from the effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from air transport.

This marks the second legal challenge by the industry in recent months. In December, they sued over similar limitations in the FuelEU Maritime Regulation.

The current lawsuit, filed by members of the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) and Hungarian biofuel producer Pannonia Bio Zrt, targets specific sections of the RefuelEU Aviation Regulation that define SAF. RefuelEU Aviation Regulation excludes biofuels produced from food and feed crops.

They claim these sections exclude crop-based biofuels like ethanol, despite their proven sustainability credentials under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

“This legislation jeopardizes the EU’s decarbonization goals by discriminating against sustainable biofuels,” said David Carpintero, director general, ePURE. “Renewable ethanol has a proven track record, yet it’s excluded while other options are empowered. This is against the Union’s best interests.”

ePure said the legal action is based on several arguments, including among others that the European Parliament and Council committed a manifest error of assessment by contradicting available scientific and technical data in preparing their policy; and violated the principle of proportionality by effectively enacting bans on the use of RED compliant crop-based biofuels.

The legal battle highlights the ongoing debate surrounding biofuels and their role in achieving climate goals. While some see them as crucial for decarbonizing hard-to-decarbonize sectors like aviation, others raise concerns about potential indirect land-use change and emissions.

The EU announced ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation in October 2023 setting obligation for aviation fuel suppliers to ensure that all fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports contains a minimum share of SAF from 2025 and, from 2030, a minimum share of synthetic fuels, with both shares increasing progressively until 2050.

Fuel suppliers will have to incorporate 2% SAF in 2025, 6% in 2030 and 70% in 2050. From 2030, 1.2% of fuels must also be synthetic fuels, rising to 35% in 2050.