You might have already guessed it, but we’re very into renewable energy – whether it’s wind, tidal or solar power, or, yes, converting waste cooking oil from the hospitality industry into biodiesel.
It’s why we do what we do – to help reduce the levels of carbon emissions in the world.
Global sea levels are increasing so fast that coastlines will experience an estimated rise of between 26cm and 82cm by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Yet while the transport sector currently contributes around a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Department of Transport, the government has been dragging its feet on setting new targets to decarbonize the industry.
LATEST NEWS: The government has now announced its next steps on this. Read about this in our blog: Tighter carbon targets for the biodiesel industry – update
All about the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation
In April 2008, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) came into force. This requires road transport fuel companies producing more than 450,000 litres of fuel a year to source 4.75% of their supply from renewable biofuels.
This target has already been very helpful at reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.
For example, the emissions savings of biofuel reported for 2013 to 2014 were the equivalent of taking 1.35 million cars off the road, according to the Department of Transport.
In this respect, the UK is regarded as a bit of shining light in Europe.
“This is because almost 100% of the biodiesel created has its origins in wastes and residues, like used cooking oil, rather than crops,” says Patrick Lynch, biofuels sustainability manager at Greenergy, which is the UK’s largest road fuel supplier and Europe’s largest waste-based biodiesel producer.
“This has made the UK the leader in Europe in this regard – and quite possibly the world.”
New target set at 10%
The RTFO also set out an increased target of 10% by 2020. This means that by then, road transport fuel companies must be sourcing 10% of the fuel they produce from renewable sources.
However, in order for the industry to meet these climate change goals, it needs the government to push forward with the plan. But this has been put onto the back burner.
Why the delay?
We think it’s for several reasons. It’s clear that while Brexit and the General Election have pushed back key government decisions, there are also concerns that road fuel companies would fulfill the new target using fuel sourced from crops, like soya bean and palm, rather than renewable energy sources, such as biomethane and waste cooking oil.
This would have a negative effect on rainforests as tropical farmers may raze woodlands to plant biofuel crops. Currently forests worldwide absorb 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon each year – and the Amazon rainforests alone are responsible for a quarter of that number. If wide scathes of forest are destroyed, the resulting damage to the climate would mean that the 10% target would contribute to, rather than slow down, climate change.
So the delay is also for the government to consider the level of cap on the use of crop-based biofuels.
Limit on new crops used
“The government would like to set the crop cap as low as possible but they have to be confident that there’s enough cooking oil out there,” says Patrick Lynch of Greenergy, which is also one of the biodiesel refineries that we work with.
We know that the vast majority of established commercial catering operations use a licensed waste cooking oil collection company – but some of the newest ones are still in the dark.
“There needs to be more work done to inform these businesses and we are working on this,” says Stephen Hurton, founder and managing director of Proper Oils.
“There are also a surprising number of caterers who are letting their animal fats solidify and disposing it in their general waste rather than storing it for specialist waste cooking oil collection and disposal.”
In future, it’s thought that more waste cooking oil could be extracted to help hit the targets.
“Fats and oils could be recovered from the fatbergs and food waste currently sent to landfill,” says Patrick. “We could create the machinery required to withdraw these resources – as long as there is a demand for it.”
Letter urging the government to act as soon as possible
We have signed a lobbying letter representing the waste-based biodiesel industry, which was sent to the government on 29 June 2017. The letter requests that the proposed amendments to the RTFO be laid before parliament in autumn 2017 so that the amendments can come into effect in April 2018.
This would provide the minimum time required to deliver the government’s commitments to tackle transport fuel emissions by 2020.
“It’s essential to act now to further support the renewable industry, reduce the UK’s carbon emissions and to hit carbon reduction targets as agreed internationally,” says Stephen. “Time is passing, carbon is increasing, global temperatures are increasing. Let’s get on with it.”
UPDATE. Read our blog about the government’s announcements: Tighter carbon targets for the biodiesel industry.
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