Depending on the feedstock used, biodiesel is now between 70% and 130% more expensive than fossil diesel on the wholesale market, according to new research from Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E). The campaign group is calling on the EU to immediately halt the use of crops in biofuels to relieve some of the pressure on fuel and food prices.

A biofuel factory. (Photo by Terelyuk via Shutterstock)

T&E’s study shows that in recent years European biofuels have been more expensive than fossil fuels. With the increasing prices of feedstocks such as cereals, vegetable oils, used cooking oil and animal fats, that price difference has only become larger – even with the skyrocketing prices of fossil fuels. Based on May 2022 prices, the mandatory blending of biofuels is now adding €17bn a year to the EU’s fuel bill. For instance, bioethanol from EU production is now twice as expensive as petrol. 

“Biofuels are worse for the climate, worse for biodiversity and contribute to higher food prices,” says Maik Marahrens, senior biofuels campaigner at T&E. “As this analysis of wholesale prices shows, they also put an unnecessary financial burden on already struggling European households. The EU should end mandates for crop biofuels and commit to truly sustainable technologies instead.”

T&E also wants the EU to “strictly limit” the mandates for advanced and waste-based biofuels. Biofuels from animal fats depend on industrial livestock farming, it says, and are often also a highly sought after raw material for other industries. Used cooking oil sourced in Europe is very limited in supply, the NGO adds. Europe already imports more than half of its used cooking oil consumption for biodiesel.

Separate to developments in road transport, the aviation sector is looking to biofuels as a potential source of sustainable aviation fuels. “The Hefa [biofuel] technology we are using now is by far the cheapest alternative fuel,” said Thorsten Lange, head of renewable aviation for Finnish oil company Neste , in an interview with Energy Monitor in April 2022. Alternatives like biofuels may be more expensive than fossil fuels, “but that is not taking into account the greenhouse gas costs of those fossil fuels”, he added.