The UK's advertising watchdog has ruled in favour of oil giant Shell over marketing claims its biofuels reduced CO2 emissions.
A national ad campaign
included the boast that biofuel
was "one of the most effective ways of reducing CO2 from cars and trucks today".
But international development charity ActionAid UK challenged the claim, saying it was misleading because they believed evidence showed that biofuels did not reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles when the full lifecycle of the fuel was taken into account.
The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation but today ruled the ad was not misleading as evidence provided by Shell demonstrated its biofuels met or exceeded targeted savings of greenhouse gas emissions.
In its ruling, the ASA explained: "Shell International Ltd (Shell) stated that there was a consensus between three very different legislative bodies that biofuels can, and do, reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles and that this claim was backed up by a large body of evidence.
"They provided a list of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings that would be achieved by a wide range of biofuels sold within the EU and US and stated that these values were based on a "seed to wheel" lifecycle analysis of the biofuels.
"They also stated that this data was developed by the EU Commission in full consultation with biofuel producers and NGOs and was based on a wide consensus and a large body of scientific evidence."
In its defence, Shell revealed that the calculation took into account the full lifecycle of the biofuel feedstock cultivation, including transport
of the raw material to processing plants, crushing and processing to produce the biofuel and transporting and blending it to produce the finished fuel.
They also detailed how the analysis also included the transport of the fuel to the service station forecourts and its combustion in vehicles. They stated that it was standard practice in biofuel lifecycle analyses for the CO2 emissions produced when the biofuel was burnt to be considered cancelled out by the CO2 which was then absorbed when the biofuel was grown.
Today's report added: "The ASA noted Shell had provided CO2 emissions data for biofuels specifically grown in areas of the US and Brazil and for those relevant for distribution in the US and Europe, including the UK.
"We noted Shell had demonstrated that many of the common types of biofuel that were included in the data had the capability of reducing CO2 emissions compared to that of petrol when taking into account [land use change] and when grown and processed on an industrial scale.
"We also noted it demonstrated that the biofuels it distributed from those that were available in Europe and the UK, were required to be sustainably sourced in order for them to count towards the EU RED targets and that this included a requirement that such biofuels should be sustainably sourced to protect against the destruction of areas rich in carbon capture."
Ruling in favour of Shell, the ASA concluded: "We considered that Shell had demonstrated that the majority of specific biofuels it distributed were accounted for within the CARB and EPA data and that the remaining biofuels had been sustainably sourced in line with the expectations laid out by EU RED.
"We also considered that it had demonstrated and that those remaining biofuels also met, or exceeded, the non-mandatory targets on GHG savings that that been set by RFTO. We therefore concluded that the claim 'This renewable energy is one of the most effective ways of reducing CO2 from cars and trucks today' had been substantiated and that the ad was not misleading."
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