Biofuels for Aviation – NOT the brilliantly “sustainable” solution the industry makes out
Biofuels are not the future for aviation. The hype about their sustainbility and being the low carbon future for the aviation industry does not bear close examination. For aviation to try and fuel itself using a high proportion of biofuels in coming decades would lead to very serious environmental and social consequences. The industry is desperate to find a means, any means, to continue with their “business as usual” growth, in times of an increasing price of kerosene and increasing curbs on carbon emissions. Biofuels are not the answer. Aviation biofuels need to be opposed, strenuously.
|News Stories showing the use of biofuels by airlines, test and commercial flights. Aviation Biofuels News
Leaflet Short leaflet – Beware the biofuel hype! Beware aviation biofuels —————————–
|Reports Reports etc on biofuels for aviation Briefings and Publications
|Flights so far Airlines and flights that have used, or will use, biofuel. Biofuelled flights
Wikipedia Wikipedia on some of the issues with biofuels. Wikipedia page
Why are airlines now planning to fly on biofuels?
Biofuels are not benign
Biofuels are only problem-free when used locally on a small-scale. The large-scale, industrial, use of biofuels creates many serious problems. Biofuels need land on which to grow. In the warm countries of the Global South, where biofuels are most easily and productively grown, but where land is scarce, it means less land is available for food crops. This means other areas, such as scrub land or forests, are being pressed into service for food production which, in turn, poses a very real risk to habitats, biodiversity and eco-systems.
Biofuels are not a carbon magic bullet for CO2
Biofuels are not the magic bullet to eliminate CO2 emissions. The Committee on Climate Change, in its December 2009 report, said that the extent of biofuels’ contribution to aviation fuel is not likely to be more than 10% by 2050, giving a 5% reduction in carbon emissions (due to the doubling of the climate effect of aviation emissions at altitude, which biofuels cannot deal with).
Biofuels are seen by the aviation industry primarily as a substitute for oil
Biofuels are profitable for the mega-corporations
There is a huge agenda driven by mega-corporations that are now leading the drive into biofuels. Much money can be made from aviation biofuels, and instead of growing biofuels with an intention of reducing climate impacts, they are just being produced as a profitable commodity. The hype has already sparked financial speculation among venture capitalists. In Africa and Mexico speculation is causing land grabs even before contracts for the fuel are signed.
How will we campaign against the rise of aviation biofuels?
We need to challenge and undermine what the aviation industry is claiming about biofuels.
1. Highlight the problems with biofuels
• Biofuels for aviation compete with food for land in the Global South, to due to indirect land use effects.
• Biofuel production can lead, directly or indirectly, to the loss of forests and other uncultivated land, and biodiversity. Loss of forests causes changes to local climate and rainfall, adversely affecting agriculture.
• Biofuels for aviation have critical social costs for communities affected by the growth of the feedstock plants, and due to increases in the price of food – as well as access to, and ownership of, land.
• Biofuels for aviation contribute towards higher food costs for UK and other developed country consumers, not only those people in poorer countries.
• Biofuels such as algae, which don’t compete with land, are difficult to grow, may yet throw up unforeseen problems and are decades away from commercial production.
• Biofuels are not the magic bullet for dealing with aviation’s CO2 emissions.
• Aviation biofuels are inextricably linked with biofuels for road transport, which have already had highly damaging results.
2. Highlight and challenge what the aviation industry is saying and doing
• Aviation’s unjustified claims that biofuels will significantly cut CO2 emissions
• Aviation’s real motivation for biofuels: peak oil is driving its need for an alternative fuel
• Aviation’s greenwash that it is only prepared to use ‘sustainable’ biofuels that don’t compete with land for food production. Even if aviation could source a supply of less damaging biofuels, the indirect effect is that another user will then be obliged to use more damaging fuels.
• Combusted at altitude, biofuels produce approximately the same non-CO2 climate changing effects such as NOx and contrails, as kerosene in addition to the CO2. This roughly doubles the climate impact of aircraft fuel compared to its use on the ground. Biofuel does not reduce this problem.
• Aviation is not a unique case needing biofuels, as the industry argues it cannot use electricity. Road vehicles and trains will not be able to be mainly powered by renewably produced electricity for many decades to come, if at all. Road vehicles will continue to require liquid fuels, and any biofuel that could be sustainably produced would be better used for necessary ground based transport, which is more carbon efficient.
3. Push for an overall reduction in flying
Unless there is a reduction in flight numbers, the industry will have no choice, given the onset of peak oil, to use every kind of biofuel to fuel its expansion. It is also driving production of liquid fossil fuels from tar sands, from Arctic and deep-sea drilling and other environmentally damaging means of extracting oil that is increasingly more difficult to access.
To encourage a cut in flight numbers:
• Oppose the tax-breaks the aviation industry receives
• Oppose government subsidies or incentives for biofuel research or development.
• Oppose targets for biofuel use in aviation in future; press for a carbon tax or equivalent
• Challenge the aviation industry’s claims to be a special case in terms of fuel requirements.
4. Reveal the way biofuel production has become big business
• The extent of speculation and profiteering by big business and venture capitalists
• The land-grabs taking place in the Global South to maintain the lifestyle of the rich world
5. Campaign for other kerosene alternatives
• The possibility of alternative fuels that are genuinely environmentally and socially sustainble should be explored
6. Work with other organisations on biofuel
• Link up with other organisations such as BiofuelWatch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF and development organisations such as Action Aid, Oxfam and the World Development Movement opposing industrial biofuels, whether for road vehicles or for aviation
• Produce/publicise research papers and information sheets as required
Friends of the Earth UK http://www.foe.co.uk/
Friends of the Earth International http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/agrofuels
Action Aid http://www.actionaid.org.uk/
Biofuels and Hunger http://www.actionaid.org.uk/102268/biofuels_and_hunger.html
Biomass and Biofuels in the Renewable Energy Directive
Almuth Ernsting, (Biofuelwatch) January 2009
Does the Renewable Energy Directive promote biofuels for aviation and/or shipping?
The 10% biofuel target applies to “land transport” only. Aviation fuel and fuel used
in shipping is taken into account when calculating Member States’ overall energy use,
important for calculating the 20% ‘renewable energy’ target. The amount of aviation
fuel considered is ‘capped’, which means that for states with a high aviation volume [ eg. the UK], the full aviation fuel will not be taken into account. Any quantity of biofuels used for
aviation would count towards the 10%, which means it will be deducted from the 10%
target which needs to be fulfilled by ‘land transport’. Any biofuel use for aviation and
shipping would thus not be additional to the 10% target. (Article 33 on Page 19 of the Directive)
By 2020, 20% of all energy used in the EU has to come from ‘renewable sources’ including biomass, bioliquids and biogas. This translates into different targets for individual Member States. An ‘indicative trajectory’ is introduced, i.e. Member States have to show that they are increasing their use of ‘renewable energy’ over every two-year period. This comprises all types of energy use, though with a cap on the amount of aviation fuel which taken into account.
A few articles on biofuels:
Aviation biofuels target threatens food prices 22.6.2011 (Friends of the Earth)http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/aviation_biofuels_target_22062011.html
Biofuels policy at the crossroads 18.5.2011 (Friends of the Earth) http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/biofuels_blog_30785.html
Europe’s demand for palm oil driving deforestation and land-grabbing 15.3.2011 (Friends of the Earth International) http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/agrofuels/global/europe2019s-demand-for-palm-oil-driving-deforestation-and-land-grabbing/?searchterm=biofuel
New study reveals biofuels carbon con 22.3.2011 (Action Aid) http://www.actionaid.org.uk/102821/news.html
New Biofuels report shows how Europe is driving hunger 15.2.2010 (Action Aid)http://www.actionaid.org.uk/102322/new_biofuels_report_shows_how_europe_is_driving_hunger.html
Report: current UK and European biofuels policies are unethical 13.4.2011 (Action Aid) http://www.actionaid.org.uk/102844/report_current_uk_and_european_biofuels_policies_are_unethical.html
Can wildlife survive the biofuels surge? 14.4.2008 (RSPB http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/biofuels/wildlife.aspx
Can biofuels be sustainable? 25.2.2008 (RSPB) http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/biofuels/sustainable.aspx
Bio-fuelling Poverty Why the EU renewable-fuel target may be disastrous for poor people 1.11.2007 (Oxfam) http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/trade/downloads/bn_biofuels.pdf?m=234&url=http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/trade/downloads/bn_wdr2008.pdf
Biofuels solution to aviation emissions 6.5.2011 (The Environmentalist) http://www.environmentalistonline.com/article/2011-05-06/biofuels-solution-to-aviation-emissions
The Guardian on Biofuels http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/biofuels