Italian oil and gas company Eni Spa has been fined US$5.6M for deceiving consumers over its ‘green’ diesel in TV, newspaper, digital media and petrol station advertisements, Biofuels International reported on 20 January.

The Italian Competition and Market Authority imposed its highest possible fine of €5M on Eni for claiming its Eni Diesel+ fuel had a positive impact on the environment, saved fuel and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Eni Diesel+ comprised 15% hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), which it produces using palm oil and waste feedstocks such as used cooking oil.

“It is particularly deceitful to use the denomination ‘green diesel’ and the qualifications ‘green’ and ‘renewable’ to refer to the HVO component of the product”, due to the indirect land use change emissions associated with palm oil use,” Biofuels International quoted the competition authority as saying.

The ruling follows a complaint filed by Italian consumer association Moviemento Difesa del Cittadino (MDC), environmental NGO Legambiente and campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).

The decision “delivers a blow to attempts by fossil fuel companies to portray biofuels to politicians and the public as environmentally friendly and part of the solution to climate change,” T&E said.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Eni would appeal the decision.

“Eni has learned with great surprise the Italian’ competition authority’s decision,” it said. “The company reserves the right to assess the grounds for its appeal to the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio.”

According to Biofuels International, Eni had been running ads on TV, print and online platforms since 2016 but withdrew its campaign several months ago. The competition authority’s ruling followed three extensions requested by Eni to provide further data to support and prove its case.

Biofuels International said that Eni was the second largest producer of biodiesel from palm oil in the EU and over half (54%) of all palm oil and derivatives imported into Italy in 2018 was used to make biodiesel.

Eni launched its Venice biorefinery (pictured) in 2014 and its Gela site last year, bringing its combined HVO production to around 1M tonnes/year.