US Invests in Rural Mobility as Europe Imports ‘Used’ Cooking Oil by the Barrel: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: Europe Imports 80% of its ‘Used’ Cooking Oil, Prompting Fraud Investigations; US Allocates $645 Million to Boost Rural Transportation and Mobility; UK Seeks to Improve Transport Connectivity; MEPs Advocate Stronger European Hydrogen Bank for Green Transition.

Europe Imports 80% of its ‘Used’ Cooking Oil, Prompting Fraud Investigations.

A new Transport & Environment (T&E) study has revealed that Europe imports a staggering 80% of its used cooking oil (UCO), raising concerns about potential fraud in the biofuels industry. The analysis of the latest biofuels data indicates that a significant portion, 60%, of these imports come from China, making it the largest supplier of UCO to the continent. The demand for used cooking oil in Europe has surged, doubling between 2015 and 2022, driven mainly by its use as biodiesel in cars and trucks. However, the limited capacity of local authorities to collect UCO and the production constraints have resulted in Europe relying heavily on imports for its supply. The high demand for UCO has also raised concerns about fraud, with suspicions that virgin oils, such as palm oil, might be mislabelled as ‘used’ to exploit the inflated value of supposedly green fuels. Germany and Ireland are launching official investigations into potential fraud risks. The European Commission has also pledged to investigate fraudulent Indonesian biodiesel potentially transiting through China and the United Kingdom to circumvent taxes. Barbara Smailagic, a biofuels expert at T&E, expressed concerns, stating, “Europe is being flooded with dodgy used cooking oil. We need greater transparency and a limit on imports to avoid UCO simply becoming a backdoor for deforestation-driving palm oil.”

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US Allocates $645 Million to Boost Rural Transportation and Mobility.

To address the pressing transportation challenges faced by rural communities across the United States, the Biden-Harris Administration has unveiled a $645.3 million investment through the second-year instalment of the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program (Rural). This initiative aims to enhance safety, accessibility, and connectivity in rural areas, marking a pivotal step towards improving the quality of life and driving economic growth. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasised the administration’s dedication to addressing rural communities’ unique challenges. He stated, “Rural communities face some of the toughest transportation challenges, yet are often left out of major federal investments, a pattern that we are changing under President Biden’s leadership. The grants we’re announcing today will make transportation in rural communities better, safer, and more reliable.” Among the selected projects, the Millen Rail Crossing in Millen, Georgia, will receive $12 million to implement three grade-separated rail crossings, enhancing regional residential and freight mobility. In San Juan County, New Mexico, a $59.8 million allocation will fund US 64 Corridor Improvements, focusing on widening and rehabilitating approximately 21 miles of the corridor, replacing bridges, and installing essential infrastructure. Additionally, the PICK 2.0 project in Oklahoma will receive $360,378 to expand microtransit services to rural and Tribal communities, providing on-demand rides. The Rural Program is a cornerstone of President Biden’s infrastructure law, which earmarks over $44 billion to aid rural communities in repairing and improving roads, bridges, airports, ports, and transit systems. The current round of funding attracted more than $7.4 billion in requests from 174 applicants, underscoring the program’s significance and the urgent need for rural transportation improvements.

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UK Seeks to Improve Transport Connectivity.

To enhance transport connectivity and foster economic growth, the UK Transport Secretary unveiled a series of comprehensive measures to improve transportation infrastructure across the nation. The announcement is part of the government’s commitment to creating a more efficient and interconnected transport network. Key components of the initiative include substantial investments in road and rail projects, advancements in sustainable transportation options, and a focus on leveraging emerging technologies to optimise the overall transport system. Addressing the media, the Transport Secretary highlighted the importance of a well-connected transportation network for the country’s prosperity. The measures announced encompass strategic investments in road maintenance and upgrades, with a specific focus on key routes to alleviate congestion and enhance the efficiency of the road network. Additionally, the government is set to allocate funds to improve rail infrastructure, emphasising upgrading existing lines, enhancing rail capacity, and reducing travel times. Sustainability is a core aspect of the new measures, with the Transport Secretary emphasising the promotion of green transportation alternatives. Investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and incentives for adopting eco-friendly transport options are key components of the government’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of transportation. The measures also included proposed reforms to Public Service Obligation routes operated by airlines. The reforms will seek to increase flights between the UK’s regions and reduce centralisation around London.

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MEPs Advocate Stronger European Hydrogen Bank for Green Transition.

To fortify the European Union’s commitment to climate neutrality by 2050, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are pushing for substantial changes to the European Hydrogen Bank (EHB). Under the RePowerEU initiative, the EU aims to produce and import 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030, prompting the creation of the EHB with an initial budget of 3 billion euros. However, MEPs argue for increased funding to align with global competitors and strategic enhancements to support domestic production. In a report published Thursday, MEPs stress the EHB’s pivotal role in prioritising domestic production and evolving into a streamlined, one-stop-shop. This approach simplifies procedures and expedites projects across the European Union’s renewable hydrogen activities. Emphasising hard-to-abate sectors like heavy transport, steel, and fertilisers, MEPs propose regional auctions within the EHB to ensure fair resource allocation and prevent regional disparities. While acknowledging the transitional role of low-carbon hydrogen, the report underscores the imperative of prioritising renewable sources for a sustainable, net-zero economy. MEPs also call for integrating robust environmental and social sustainability criteria into the EHB’s allocation process, aligning it with broader EU goals. The report emphasises the necessity of a functional hydrogen market, proposing a review mechanism to ensure accountability and transparency and prevent overcompensation. The adopted report reflects MEPs’ consensus on fortifying the EHB, marking a significant stride in shaping Europe’s hydrogen landscape for a green and sustainable future. The Commission’s response within the next three months will be crucial in advancing these proposed changes.

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