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RFA Seeks to Intervene in Legal Challenge to EU Maritime Fuel Regulation

March 29, 2024

Judicial, Regulatory, Ethanol in Boats


The Renewable Fuels Association on Thursday filed a petition to intervene in support of a legal challenge brought by European ethanol producers against the European Union’s FuelEU Maritime Regulation. By arbitrarily assuming crop-based biofuels like ethanol have the same lifecycle carbon emissions as the dirtiest fossil-based marine fuels, the EU regulation effectively bans the use of renewable, crop-based marine fuels as a tool for decarbonizing the maritime sector.


RFA’s application to intervene in the proceedings supports the challenge brought by ePURE, a trade association representing European ethanol producers, and Pannonia Bio, one of Europe’s largest ethanol producers. Their application seeks to annul the relevant provisions of the FuelEU Maritime Regulation, which was adopted by the EU in 2023 and is set to take effect in 2025.


“The FuelEU Maritime regulation is unlawfully biased against crop-based biofuels and it harms ethanol producers around the world by denying them access to an emerging low-carbon fuel market,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “In addition, the EU’s maritime regulation is entirely inconsistent with other programs, like the Renewable Energy Directive, in which the EU has confirmed the low-carbon benefits and sustainability of crop-based biofuels.”


In addition to interfering with biofuel trade opportunities with European partners, Cooper said the regulation would even hamper the ability of U.S. producers to sell low-carbon fuels to maritime shippers in the United States.  “Because the regulation also applies to ships arriving at EU ports, it will affect the fuel choices made by EU-bound ship operators when they refuel outside the EU,” he said. “In this way, the regulation directly discourages development and use of low-carbon marine fuels here in the U.S.”


RFA noted that in recent years the global shipping industry has identified ethanol, green methanol, and other renewable fuels as highly promising alternatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector. RFA’s member producers have pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions for ethanol by 2050 or sooner, and a 2023 survey shows they are on the way to reaching that goal. U.S. grain-based ethanol currently cuts greenhouse gas emissions significantly—often by 50 percent or more compared to gasoline, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.