The US FAA and Australia’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism have reached
a Memorandum of Understanding to continue research and development of biofuels.
The MOU calls for both countries to exchange information about policies, programs,
projects, etc and to conduct joint studies in areas such as fuel sources and environmental
impacts. One of the areas of concern and focus is feedstock readiness – if producers
can ramp up on scale fast enough.
19.9.2011 (Biofuels Digest)
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covers feedstock readiness, sustainability,
data sharing, fuels certification, plus development of new alternative fuel pathways
in alcohol conversion, pyrolysis and synthetic biology.
Is the agreement, driven by the private sector and formalized by government,
a template for agreements to foster aviation biofuels around the world?
In San Francisco, the U.S. FAA and Australia’s Department of Resources, Energy
and Tourism have reached a Memorandum of Understanding to continue research and
development of clean, sustainable alternative aviation fuels.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Australian Ambassador to the
United States Kim Beazley signed the agreement at the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation) Transport & Energy Ministers Ministerial Conference Summit meetings
in San Francisco.
The MOU calls for Australia and the United States to exchange information about policies, programs, projects, research results,
and publications, and to conduct joint studies in areas such as fuel sources and environmental
impacts. The memorandum also facilitates analysis of fuel source supply chains.
The signing nations agree to cover the associated costs.
“Air travel is global and we need international partners to develop these innovative
new fuels,” Secretary LaHood told reporters. “Our ultimate goal is to work with
all of the Asia Pacific nations to achieve a sustainable, independent energy future
for aviation, and this is an exciting first step.”
The MOU enables Australia
and the United States to exchange information on policies, programs, projects,
and research results, and to conduct joint studies in areas such investigation
of new fuel sources and conducting environmental impacts.
Aspects of significance
“From the government perspective, and what we choose as a framework for APEC,”
CAAFI (The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative) Executive Director
Rick Altman said, “this agreement is fairly unique, in that you have the agreement
being developed out of the private sector, and then they have brought this to
the government to recognize and support – as opposed to the government developing
this, and saying “here” to the private sector.”
Three aspects of the agreement should draw special attention from followers of
bioenergy’s story arc.
1. Unlike other government to government agreements that emerge from time to
time, this agreement sprung out of the private sector, primarily driven by the
CAAFI private-public partnership in the US , and Austrade and the US Studies Center at the University of Sydney, for Australia.
2. This agreement is “operational” not “aspirational” which makes it unique among
other cross border activities in which the CAAFI coalition has been engaged in
that their are discreet specifics that fill gaps in the overall global aviation
biofuels efforts to which we can both make contributions.
3. This MOU can realistically form a template for efforts for in the Asia Pacific
region as a whole, and other regions.
The origins of the agreement
Dr. Susan Pond of the US Studies Center recalls: “Rich Altman and I met in October
last year through Austrade in DC, and at that time we hatched the idea of a forum
at the Avalon Air Show, where we held seminars every day (before the jets drowned
us out). In Australia, we saw a real appetite for connection internationally and
particularly with US for aviation, and in fact a group had formed earlier under
SAFUG (Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group) to start working on roadmap, with
Boeing, Qantas, Virgin, GE and CSIRO involved, and in particular getting catalysis
and knowledge from boeing.
“After Avalon, we had the idea of an MOU or an agreement between the US and Australia,
which I presented to the Australian government in Canberra including people at
the Ministry of Resources Energy & Tourism and Ministry of Transport. CAAFI,
myself, FAA and Austrade had a meeting towards a more formal agreement at the
Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in DC earlier this year, and as another
part of the process we went to a prep meeting for APEC and put it on the APEC
agreement agenda, and it was signed of the margins of the APEC meeting.”
CAAFI’s Rich Altman added: “There were discussions that predated this process,
such as discussions between the Volpe Center and CSIRO. But we quickly identified
areas to work together – road-mapping, scenario planning, and matching up feedstock
with fuel suppliers. At the next CAAFI meeting in November we will put even more
meat on the work plan.”
The key elements
Key elements in work plan for now include: scenario analysis, feedstock readiness,
sustainability, data sharing, fuels certification, plus development on a variety
of alternative fuel pathways, including fuels out of synthetic biology processing,
alcohol to jet fuels, and fuels made from pyrolytic processes.
One of the areas of greatest concern and focus is feedstock readiness – there
being around the world a sense that the aviation community has been able to advance
on fuels testing and certification fare faster than the feedstock community has
been able to ramp op on scale.
Feedstocks of interest
In the agreement, there is a focus on US technologies and Australian feedstocks.
Besides the well-known focus on development of algal fuels in Australia, “the
main feedstocks of interest are sugar,” observed Dr. Pond, “there’s a lot of bagasse
that can be diverted. Also, oilseed crops, some of which are already grown, like
mustard seed – as a break crop for soil as well as the oil benefit. Lignocellulosic
crops are not used on an aggregated basis at this time, except for power. But
that’s where CSIRO is especially good – they have done the mapping and aggregation
to prepare for that sector.”
The Global Template
There’s an interest in duplicating this type of agreement,” said CAAFI’s Altman.
“It was brought up in Sept meeting, and we could be working as early as March
on something. As far as where this model would work, follow the feedstocks. There
are feedstock rich regions throughout Southeast Asia that fits the bill. Plus
there are countries with a strong aviation industry component, for example, there
may be interest in Japan, given the fact that the aircraft and engine partnerships
are already in place there. Plus there are countries like Singapore, where you
have the refining capacity. In that case, there’s been activity between FAA and
Singapore, which has a strong aviation community and is surrounded by the feedstocks
in the neighboring countries.”
The governmental role
“The government will have a very important educative role,” remarked Dr. Pond.
“Australia is just now finalizing its alternative fuels strategy, but in general
we know that agricultural subsidies, for example, are much greater in the US than
in Australia and the industry will need to be pulled rather than pushed. So, education
of the constituencies, such as farmers, will not work the same.”
“Market forces are driving this sector,” said Altman, “and there are strong forces
that will sustain this. For example, as prominent as aviation has become within
the biofuels community, aviation consumes twice as much fuel relative to road
transport in Australia than here. Plus, the depletion of oil refining capacity
is much greater in Australia than here. And, its much easier to align the players
– for example, it is very difficult to align commercial and military people in
the EU, for historical reasons, but it is not an issue in Australia.
“I don’t see that the MOU would be cancelled” added Dr. Pond, “if there was a
change in government. The carbon tax which is coming in will be so difficult to
unwind if it is finally passed towards the end of the year, and the private aviation
sector isn’t going to change. So the meta-policy environment is going to have
a great deal driving it.”
“CAAFI started under the Bush Administration,” noted Altman, “and then continued
and accelerated under the Obama administration. Usually, a new government comes
in and looks for good ideas and seeks to embrace them. And we see that at the
state level, too. Those states that are changing policy, are still looking to
embrace initiatives like this. All governments want to be successful, and I suspect
that applies to governments here or there.”
Read more »
The EC has a current consultation on future fuels in Europe, including biofuels
in a big way, and including aviation. It presumes biofuels are a “good thing”
and just asks how much, and with what priority, and on what time scale etc. It
asks for views on fuel mix, including various forms of alternative fuels, in 2020,
2030 and 2050, and its stated aim is to modernise and decarbonise the transport
sector. A good chance to send in concerns about the rush to biofuels.
The EU is inviting responses to a worrying survey on Clean Transport Systems
The questions tend to assume that biofuels are a good thing.
Deadline for responses 6 October.
The questionnaire itself is at http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ipm/forms/dispatch?form=cts
Most questions are compulsory, and it may be the sort of form on which you have
to tick one of two (unappealing) alternatives before being allowed to continue.
Each has a space for comments below it.
Most of the questions are copied below:
Should policy actions be taken at the EU level to steer an EU-wide market introduction
of alternative fuels?
In addition to appropriate standards for CO2 emissions from vehicles, do you
consider it important to put in place requirements on energy efficiency addressing
all types of propulsion systems alongside the progressive market penetration of
In view of the current availability of fuel options with lower CO2 emissions,
what should now receive priority?
– Research to improve existing fuel/vehicle technologies
– Deployment of new low-CO2 fuel/vehicle technologies
Which approach should the EU take on the promotion of alternative fuels?
– Technology-oriented: giving preference to certain fuels and vehicle technologies
(based on estimated cost effectiveness, market potential, long-term contribution
to oil substitution and decarbonisation)
– Performance-oriented: linking support to alternative fuels in a technology-neutral
way to performance criteria, such as energy efficiency, reduction of CO2 and pollutant
Which fuels should be included in a long-term European alternative fuel strategy?
– LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas)
– Synthetic fuels
Different transport modes may require different alternative fuels. Indicate which
alternative fuels will be relevant for which transport modes on the time horizon
…… and it gives a grid with all the forms of transport, including air,
and the fuel options above, including biofuels.
and a grid for
Different transport modes may require different alternative fuels. Indicate which
alternative fuels will be relevant for which transport modes on the time horizon
and a grid for
Different transport modes may require different alternative fuels. Indicate which
alternative fuels will be relevant for which transport modes on the time horizon
Should actions be taken to privilege the use of particular fuels in particular
Do we need to accompany those actions with a coherent life-cycle approach for
Do you think that biofuels meeting the EU sustainability criteria could provide
the major share of the transport energy supply in the long term?
Do you think that biofuels meeting the EU sustainability criteria could deliver
the required greenhouse gas reduction in the horizon 2050?
Biofuels are considered to be an important part of alternative long term options
for substituting oil as energy source in transport. Which approach(es) should
get priority for further market build-up of biofuels reaching beyond 2020?
– Enabling progressively higher blending of bioethanol and biodiesel with conventional
– Faster market deployment of flexible fuel vehicles that can accept a much wider
range of fuel specifications
– Faster market development of biofuels in transport sectors which are less dependent
on fuel specifications than road transport passenger vehicles
– Faster market development of fungible (*) biofuels, which can be blended at
any ratio with conventional fossil fuels
[ (*) fungible means (especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to
be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like
nature or kind.]
Should the public sector intervene in accelerating the deployment of advanced
biofuels technologies for the transport sector?
and a few other questions, and
Should there be EU legislation requiring a certain minimum refuelling/recharging
infrastructure for certain alternative fuels/energy carriers?
….. for Road, Rail, Water, Air ……….with the various possible alternative
fuels, including biofuels.
Should the market introduction of alternative fuels be supported by privileged
access of alternative fuel vehicles/transport carriers to transport infrastructure?
Additional contributions through position papers are encouraged. They should
be sent to MOVE-FUELS@ec.europa.eu or uploaded here below.
Read more »
In a long-awaited announcement last week, the EC decided to entirely ignore the
indirect climate impacts of agrofuels for up to 7 more years. Instead of using
the precautionary principle, the agofuel industry has been given the benefit of
the doubt. The EU Renewable Energy Directive exempt all agrofuels produced in
installations including palm oil and sugar cane mills operating by the end of
2012 from any ‘penalties’ over their indirect impacts until the end of 2017.
[The aviation industry has sometimes stated that it will only use biofuels that
are not in competition with human food supplies, but that now seems to have been
abandonned, and palm oil or jet fuel derived from alcohol from maize or sugar
is being developed].
Note: GJEP (Global Justice Ecology Project) is the North American Focal Point
for Global Forest Coalition.
13 September, 2011 (Climate Connections, USA)
In a long-awaited announcement last week, the European Commission decided
to entirely ignore the indirect climate impacts of agrofuels for up to seven more
years. The Global Forest Coalition (GFC), a network of more than 50 NGOs and Indigenous
Peoples Organisations worldwide, says the decision illustrates once more the absurdity
of EU claims regarding “sustainable biofuels”. GFC continues to call for the
EU and EU member states to abolish biofuel targets and subsidies as the only way
to prevent further disastrous consequences for forests, people and climate.
According to Commission minutes, the EU’s decision to ignore Indirect Land Use
Change for the foreseeable future was due to ‘scientific uncertainties’.
“The EU claims to be committed to the Precautionary Principle, but this decision
yet again flies in the face of precaution,” says Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch,
the European Focal Point of GFC.
“First, they ignored all warnings when pushing through a 10% biofuel target.
Now they are using scientific uncertainties as an excuse for once again caving
in to the agrofuel industry. Under the precautionary principle, uncertainties over extent of harm caused by
agrofuels means that targets and subsidies must be stopped – instead of giving
the agrofuel industry the benefit of doubt.”
A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters concludes that “nearly 60% of Amazonian deforestation occurring between 2003 and 2020 will be
attributable to ILUC [Indirect Land Use Change’ associated with biofuel production”.
Furthermore, a recent report by a High Level Expert Panel published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, illustrates the key role
that biofuels played in recent food price rises, responsible for a steep increase
in the number of people going hungry worldwide .
GFC’s chairperson Fiu Mata’ese Elisara, an Indigenous leader from Samoa states:
“We have long recognized that, so long as demand continues to grow for soya, palm
oil, sugar cane and other biofuel feedstocks, ‘sustainability standards’ will
fail to address the problem. The increasing demand is driven by policies from
Europe and North America that favour targets and subsidies. The result is pushing agricultural frontiers further into forests, grasslands,
peat lands and other natural ecosystems.
It also forms a significant factor in the current food price boom, which has
lead to far more people being hungry and malnourished all over the world. The only way to prevent this destruction is for EU and member states to halt
the targets and subsidies. Instead, they are choosing to turn a blind eye and
ignore these impacts altogether.”
The EU Renewable Energy Directive, which includes a 10% biofuel target for transport,
already ‘exempted’ all agrofuels produced in installations operating by the end
of 2012 from any ‘penalties’ over their indirect impacts until the end of 2017
. This belies the Commissions’ claim that its decision aims to protect existing
investments, rather than supporting future agrofuel production.
The Commission has indicated that it is considering an increase in existing “greenhouse
gas standards” for biofuels as an alternative to addressing indirect land use
change. However, Global Forest Coalition and others have dismissed this approach
because it is based on a false accounting of climate impacts – made worse by the
Commission’s decision to continue ignoring the indirect impacts, which account
for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels.
Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition: +595-21-663654, +595985593591
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch: +44-1224-324797
 The Commission’s decision, with excerpts from minutes, was reported by Reuters
on 8th September: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/09/08/us-eu-biofuels-idUKTRE7874NP20110908
 Statistical confirmation of indirect land use change in the Brazilian Amazon,
Eugenio Y. Arima, Environmental Research Letters 6 (2011), 024010, http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/2/024010
 Price volatility and food security, a report by the High Level Panel of Experts
on Food Security and Nutrition, July 2011, www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE-price-volatility-and-food-security-report-July-2011.pdf
 Article 19(6) of the Renewable Energy Directive – Note that subsequent Guidance
published by the Commission states that the term ‘installation’ applies not only
to agrofuel refineries but even to palm oil, sugar cane or soya mills, which means
that the ‘exemption’ would already have applied to agrofuels from most new refineries.
Read more »
The EU is overestimating the reductions in CO2 emissions from use of biofuels
as a result of a “serious accounting error,” according to a draft opinion by an
influential committee of 19 scientists and academics. They write that any CO2
reduction should be measured by how much additional CO2 such crops absorb beyond
what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.
Instead, the EU has been “double counting” some of the savings.
14.9.2011 (New York Times)
The European Union is overestimating the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
achieved through reliance on biofuels as a result of a “serious accounting error,”
according to a draft opinion by an influential committee of 19 scientists and
The European Environment Agency Scientific Committee writes that the role of energy from crops like biofuels in curbing warming gases
should be measured by how much additional carbon dioxide such crops absorb beyond
what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.
Instead, the European Union has been “double counting” some of the savings, according
to the draft opinion, which was prepared by the committee in May and viewed this
week by The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times.
The committee said that the error had crept into European Union regulations because
of a “misapplication of the original guidance” under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense since
it assumes that all burning of biomass does not add carbon to the air,” the committee
European Union laws “need to be reviewed to encourage bioenergy use only from
additional biomass that reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” the committee wrote.
Estimates of emissions saved by using crops for energy should instead focus on
biomass that would “maintain or build carbon stocks in plants and soils,” it adds.
The draft opinion is not binding; some findings could change before the committee
issues a final version, probably in coming weeks. Even so, the implications could
be significant if European Union authorities come under pressure to adjust their
rules on biofuels.
Farmers and fuel companies may no longer be able to use as wide a variety of
crops to meet targets that were agreed upon three years ago to generate 10 percent
of transportation fuel from renewable sources by 2020.
The committee suggested that bodies like the International Energy Agency and the United Nations could be forced to lower their forecasts for the amount
of energy from plants and crops that could be generated in the future.
The opinion comes at an awkward time for the European Commission, the European
Union’s executive body.
The commission already is agonizing over how much to tighten the rules on biofuels
to curb a phenomenon called indirect land use change, in which areas containing
high stores of carbon dioxide, like grasslands, peat lands or forests, are stripped
to produce food crops.
The committee attributed some of its findings to work by Tim Searchinger, a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton who has written extensively about
accounting for emissions from biofuels.
In one example attributed to research by Mr. Searchinger, the committee wrote:
“Clearing or cutting forests for bioenergy crops releases large stores of carbon
into the atmosphere and may reduce ongoing carbon sequestration if the forest
was otherwise still growing. Bioenergy crops will absorb carbon that offsets the
emissions from their combustion, but it may take decades for this carbon absorption
(which offsets emissions) to catch up to the lost carbon storage and forgone carbon
sequestration of the forest.”
The committee’s opinion backs up earlier criticism by environmental groups including
Birdlife International and the European Environmental Bureau, which likened the carbon accounting error by European Union officials to a
“subprime carbon mortgage that it may never be able to pay back.” (see article below)
The committee is not ruling out the use of biofuels, however, and in other examples
it identified optimal sites for planting bioenergy crops, including former tropical
forests now overrun by grasses that frequently catch on fire.
Bioenergy targets based on flawed science: report
Existing targets for biofuels and other forms of bioenergy are based on flawed
carbon accounting and should be revised downwards, a draft report by a panel of
19 top European scientists showed.
“It is widely assumed that bioenergy is inherently carbon-neutral. However, this
assumption is flawed,” said the Scientific Committee of the European Environment
Agency, the European Union’s environment watchdog.
“The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense,”
said the draft opinion seen by Reuters.
The report is intended to guide EU policymaking on bioenergy, but its findings
apply to policies implemented by other governments around the world, the scientists
If the findings are confirmed and heeded by policymakers, it would undermine
the case in favor of using biofuels and could lead to a wholesale U-turn in existing
The 19-member panel has no direct say on EU energy policy, but its opinion is
well respected, and the draft report comes during a tense EU debate over calculating
the indirect climate impact biofuels create by diverting crops into fuel tanks.
The European Commission has agreed to delay by up to seven years rules that would
penalize individual biofuels for their indirect emissions, saying the scientific
uncertainty surrounding the issue is too great.
Ten agencies, including the World Bank and World Food Programme, recently called
on governments to scrap policies to support biofuels, because they force up food
Biofuels accounted for about 20 percent of sugar cane in 2007-2009 and 9 percent
of oilseeds and coarse grains, according to that study.
But the report by the EEA’s scientific committee goes one step further, saying
that policymakers made a basic mathematical error at the start and credited both
liquid and solid fuels with more carbon savings than they merit.
The basic assumption with bioenergy — whether bioethanol used in cars or wood
chips burned in power stations — is that it emits only as much carbon when burned
as the plants absorbed when growing.
If you use them as a fuel, their net impact on the carbon balance of the climate
is supposed to be zero, except for emissions from farming and processing the energy
But the scientific committee said that the basic theory omitted to make a comparison
with the business-as-usual scenario of plant growth.
“Plants do absorb carbon, but this thinking makes a ‘baseline’ error because
it fails to recognize that if bioenergy were not produced, land would typically
grow plants anyway, and those plants would absorb carbon,” it said.
The only true carbon savings are those made above and beyond the natural level
of carbon sequestration in nature or crop cultivation. In other words, what matters
is additional plant growth.
The panel called on the EU to revise its bioenergy laws to make intelligent use
of the best-performing biofuels.
“Legislation that encourages substitution of fossil fuels by bioenergy, irrespective
of the biomass source, may even cause an increase in carbon emissions, accelerating
global warming,” it said.
The EU has a target to increase the share of renewables in final energy use to
20 percent by 2020, and current forecasts suggest that energy from trees and other
vegetation will account for 60 percent of all renewable energy by that date.
A separate EU target seeks to raise the use of biofuels in road transport to
about 10 percent by the end of this decade.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a federation of more than 140 environment
groups, said the opinion confirmed the findings of its 2010 report, “Bioenergy:
a Carbon Accounting Time Bomb”.
“The industry keeps telling us that the science on biofuels is too uncertain
to change the policy, but both these reports show that the only thing that is
uncertain is whether EU biofuels policy delivers any carbon savings at all,” said
EEB policy director Pieter Depous.
Members of the scientific committee contacted by Reuters declined to comment
on the contents of the report, which is due to be formally adopted on October
5, but stressed that it was a draft and could still change.
One expert with knowledge of its contents, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said initial estimates of the climate benefits of bioenergy were far too optimistic.
“The problem was that when these targets were created, people did not go into
these details. It’s later on that all these details came in,” he said.
“I think there’s still a role for bioenergy, but maybe a little bit less positive
than it is now.”
(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Rex Merrifield and Jane Baird)
see the European Commission response
14.9.2011 (New York Times_
European Commission Disputes Opinion on Biofuels Emissions
By JAMES KANTER
The European Commission acknowledged on Wednesday that reductions in greenhouse
gas emissions linked to the use of some forms of bioenergy — burning wood for
electricity, for example — could be overestimated because of a “serious accounting
But the commission rejected the conclusions of a draft opinion by the European Environment Agency Scientific Committee that said that similar problems afflict the calculation of emissions from biofuels
The draft opinion, described here in an earlier post, could have wide repercussions. It suggests that a far narrower variety of crops
for biofuels and bioenergy should be grown and that organizations like the International
Energy Agency and the United Nations probably need to lower their emissions forecasts
related to the use of biofuels and bioenergy.
The committee, made up of 19 scientists and academics, wrote in May that the
effectiveness of energies produced from crops used for biofuels and bioenergy
in curbing greenhouse gas emissions should be measured by how much additional
carbon dioxide such crops absorb, beyond what would have been absorbed anyway
by pre-existing fields, forests and grasslands.
The committee is expected to agree on a final draft of their opinion in coming
The matter is particularly sensitive in Europe, where governments agreed three
years ago to generate 10 percent of fuels for transportation from renewable sources
The committee based some of its draft opinion, viewed this week by The International
Herald Tribune and The New York Times, on work by Tim Searchinger, a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton who has written extensively about
accounting for emissions from biofuels.
Marlene Holzner, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said that some of
Mr. Searchinger’s findings had been “rebutted by other institutions in the past”
and that his opinion “seems not to be an actual good contribution” to calculating
whether biofuels for transportation “are good in terms of CO2 emissions or not.”
But on bioenergy, “his thoughts are partly correct,” Ms. Holzner said. “We are
looking into that.” She declined to say how long that assessment would take.
Ms. Holzner said that the main problem with Mr. Searchinger’s work on biofuels
for transportation was that he had failed to make a proper comparison with the
emissions produced by gasoline and diesel burned in cars.
That argument was reinforced this week by industry representatives like Lars
Hansen, the president for Europe at Novozymes, a Danish biotechnology company that produces enzymes for biofuels.
‘’The real issue is whether biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared
to continued petroleum use, assuming that land use issues are accounted for,’’
Mr. Hansen said. ‘‘There is clear and substantial evidence that they do.”
From BirdLife (date not known)
Bioenergy – a carbon accounting time bomb
Burung Indonesia Eka Tresnawan
The carbon debt created when woody biomass is burned takes centuries to pay off.
Two new independent scientific studies commissioned by BirdLife International,
the European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment cast further
doubt on the EU’s policy of promoting biomass as fuel for heat and power generation,
and biofuels for transport.
The first study, carried out by Joanneum Research, identifies a major flaw in
the way carbon savings from forest-derived biomass are calculated in EU law as
well as under UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. It concludes that harvesting
trees for energy creates a ‘carbon debt’: the carbon contained in the trees is
emitted upfront while trees grow back over many years. The true climate impact
of so-called woody biomass in the short to medium term can, as a result, be worse
than the fossil fuels it is designed to replace.
“The EU is taking out a sub-prime carbon mortgage that it may never be able to
pay back. Biomass policy needs to be fixed before this regulatory failure leads
to an ecological crisis that no bail out will ever fix”, commented Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at BirdLife International.
The second study, by CE Delft, examines the full climate impact of the main biofuels
used in Europe. In particular it looked at the impact of the expansion of agricultural
land into environmentally sensitive areas when food production is displaced by
fuel crops, a process known as indirect land use change (ILUC). The report, based
on analysis of several EU Commission-sponsored research projects and other international
model studies, found that most current biofuels are as bad as fossil fuels for
the climate once ILUC is taken into consideration. The study proposes concrete ways of correcting current greenhouse gas balance
calculations to fully account for indirect land use change related emissions.
“As long as the EU refuses to take the full climate impacts of biofuels into
account, its climate strategy for transport is doomed to failure.” said Nuša Urbancic,
Policy Officer at Transport & Environment, the sustainable transport campaigners.
“If left unchanged, biomass for energy policy will soon be in the same dire and
confused state as biofuel policy is today”, added Pieter de Pous, Senior Policy
Officer at the European Environmental Bureau. “This can be avoided if the Commission
and industry are ready to face up to these facts and develop the necessary measures
that will ensure bioenergy policy will actually make a positive contribution to
fighting climate change”.
Together, current EU policy on biomass and biofuels risks severe environmental
impacts across the globe, and a carbon debt that could take centuries to pay off.
The three groups are calling on the EU to come forward with mandatory sustainability
criteria for biomass and to incorporate indirect land use change calculations
into the existing sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioenergy.
Download the report here.
Download the Joanneum Research study here.
Bergsma G. C., Croezen H. J., Otten M. B. J. & van Valkengoed M.P.J., Biofuels:
indirect land use change and climate impact, Delft, CE Delft, June 2010.
Download the CE Delft study here.
Zanchi G, Pena N., Bird N., The upfront carbon debt of bioenergy, Graz, Joanneum
Research, June 2010.’
Read more »
The IDB will finance for “renewable” jet fuel projects in Latin America and the
Caribbean and along with aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Embraer the IDB will
fund a sustainability analysis of producing jet fuel from Brazilian sugarcane.
The study will evaluate environmental and market conditions for and will be independently
reviewed and advised by the WWF. It will include indirect land-use effects. Sugar-derived
jet biofuels were not included in the recent ASTM certification process
15.8.2011 (Green Air Online)
The regional initiative launched in June by the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB) to provide finance for renewable jet fuel projects in Latin America and
the Caribbean has made its first grant. The IDB, along with aircraft manufacturers
Boeing and Embraer, is to fund a sustainability analysis of producing jet fuel
from Brazilian sugarcane.
The study will evaluate environmental and market conditions for the use of renewable
jet fuel produced by synthetic biofuel technology company Amyris. It will be
led by ICONE, an agricultural research think-tank in Brazil, and will be independently reviewed and advised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In 2009, Embraer and Amyris announced a sustainable jet fuel initiative that
aims to conduct a demonstration flight in 2012 of a GE-powered Embraer aircraft
belonging to Brazilian airline Azul using biofuel derived from sugarcane.
Scheduled for completion early next year, the ICONE study will include a complete
lifecycle analysis of the emissions associated with the Amyris ‘No Compromise’
jet fuel, including indirect land-use change and effects. In addition, it will
include benchmarking of cane-derived renewable jet fuel against major sustainability
standards, including the Bonsucro, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and
the Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard adopted by the IDB.
Sugar-derived jet biofuels were not included in the recent ASTM certification
process and so cannot be used on commercial flights but, according to Amyris CEO
John Melo, ASTM has now set up a task force to establish product specifications
for direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon renewable jet fuels such as those being developed
“This study will help us replace fossil fuels with a renewable jet fuel that
surpasses both technical and sustainability criteria,” he said.
Embraer’s Director of Environmental Strategy and Technology, Guilherme de Almeida
Freire, commented: “Participation in this important study is one more step for
Embraer to support the development of sustainable biofuels for aviation. Brazil
is a rich source of biomass, and the maturation of this technology, based on sugarcane,
reinforces the importance that the nation gives to the sustainable growth of aviation.”
The leader of the IDB Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Initiative, Arnaldo Vieira
de Carvalho, said: “Emerging renewable jet fuel technologies have the potential
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, as sugarcane ethanol in Brazil
has already proven. This study will examine the overall potential for sustainable,
large-scale production of alternative jet fuels made from sugarcane.”
The IDB is employing grant resources from its Sustainable Energy and Climate
Change Fund to finance activities under its jet fuel initiative. Countries that
have already started developing sustainable jet fuels in the region, including
Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, will be among the first to benefit from the grants,
said the bank (see article).
“As renewable jet fuel production increases, it must be done in a transparent
and sustainable way,” said Kevin Ogorzalek, Program Officer at WWF. “We’re eager to contribute to this study as one part of a growing international
effort to reduce the fast-growing emissions from aviation and protect the critical
resources on which we all depend.”
Billy Glover, Boeing VP of Environment and Aviation Policy, said collaborative
research into the cane-to-jet pathway was important for diversifying aviation
fuel supplies and ensuring the sustainability of sources that could feed into
regional supply chains, such as in Brazil, was critical.
He added the project expanded on an existing collaboration between Boeing, Amyris
and the State Government of Queensland, Australia. In May 2010, an international
research project led by the University of Queensland and backed by Boeing, Amyris
and Virgin Blue, was launched to develop renewable jet fuel from algae. The Queensland
government contributed A$2 million (S2.1m) to the project through the host university’s
Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, with Boeing adding
A$450,000 and Amyris a further A$1 million.
So much for IATA saying the industry was looking for fuels not in competition
on the 2010 ICAO Environmental Report 2010 – Aviation and Climate Change
Aviation Raw Material Requirements
New biofuels for aviation will have to improve their GHG emissions balances throughout the entire life cycle and will have to guarantee
that a number of criteria related to indirect effects and basic environmental
issues are met. These include such factors as food security, land use, ecosystem
interaction, and soil and water uses. Specifically, biofuels made from second
generation feedstock crops should comply with the following main characteristics:
● Do not interfere with the food sector.
● Are produced on land not used for food production, or marginal land.
● Do not damage scarce natural ecosystems and are produced so that soil and water
will not be contaminated or over-utilized.
● Do not require excessive agricultural inputs.
● Provide a net carbon footprint reduction compared to conventional jet fuel.
● Produce equal or higher energy content than jet fuel.
● Are not threatening to biodiversity.
● Provide socio-economic value to local communities.
The raw materials produced from agroenergetic crops for aviation biofuels must
be non food-feedstock items in order to guarantee that they do not compete with
the food production industry.
Read more »
Read more »
The Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuels and Energy for Aviation report, submitted
to the EC, gives details of how they propose European aviation can get up to 2%
of biofuels by 2020. They claim “sustainable” biofuel, in huge amounts, can be
sourced. On aviation industry emissions reduction targets, the study finds that stabilisation
of emissions at 2020 levels – using biofuels – would probably take well beyond
2030.and it sees some of the problems.
SWAFEA final report lays groundwork for the deployment of sustainable aviation
biofuels in Europe
26.7.2011 (Green Air online)
This is a horrendous report, backing biofuels for avaition, and very worrying
Although the aviation sector has a good track record in reducing its environmental
impact through efficiency gains, it is highly unlikely to reduce or even stabilise
its emissions through this means alone, but biofuels present a real potential
for reduction, concludes a major European study into aviation alternative fuels.
However, a number of major challenges need to be faced including feedstock availability
and development, and how to overcome the economic barriers for investors. The
study recommends that quota mandates should be considered and suggests that auction
revenues from the EU ETS be used to kick-start the process. As a first step, a
low minimum goal for European aviation biofuel introduction in 2020 – a 2% market
penetration is proposed – should be the basis for triggering a start-up of production.
The findings are included in a final 110-page report submitted to the European
Commission on the conclusion of the two-year Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuels and Energy in Aviation (SWAFEA) project, the most comprehensive study of the deployment issue to date.
In respect of aviation industry emissions reduction targets, the study finds
that stabilisation of emissions at their 2020 levels will take time to be achieved,
probably well beyond 2030, but is feasible with the deployment of biofuels from
hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) and biomass-to-liquid (BTL) pathways. The 2050
target of halving emissions by 2050 compared to 2005, however, will require radically
more efficient pathway solutions, such as algae.
The study, carried out by a 20-strong consortium led by French aviation research
institution Onera, recommends the setting up of a European network of excellence
to evaluate new fuel pathways with regard to aviation requirements. Rather than
compete with standards bodies like ASTM International and Defence Standards, it
should complement and interface with them and contribute to the approvals processes.
In addition, the network should also include capability to consider sustainability
and industrial aspects.
The need is also identified for coordination between different initiatives or
R&D programmes engaged in Europe and also coordination at a political level
concerning regulations or policies. The study suggests setting up a European Technology
Platform that synthesises on-going activities and offers a platform for information
exchange. Such a structure could be opened up to international cooperation and
partnerships. Given the synergy existing for many links of the biofuel chain between
the aviation and the automotive industries, it suggests the two sectors should
work more closely together.
Beyond R&D, the study identifies the need for demonstration initiatives at
the various steps of the fuel value chain in order to consolidate the knowledge
and choice for future development, or to accelerate deployment of alternative
aviation fuels. It suggests the demonstration of a regular supply of aviation
biofuel to an airport, for example, would be a helpful initiative to identify
and assess in a real situation all the practical issues brought on by the introduction
of new fuels and pave the way for future large-scale deployment at European airports.
At a European level, there should be a harmonisation of sustainability requirements
between different regulations and policies. Aviation fuel being a global commodity,
an international harmonisation of sustainability regulations and policies would
help and should be searched at International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
level for a worldwide application in accordance with ICAO’s resolution on climate
change, suggests the study. There should be an alignment of the various lifecycle
analysis methodologies and sustainability criteria in order to facilitate a worldwide
certification of aviation fuel.
The report suggests research should be supported on a methodological approach
of indirect land use change and associate policy measures, as well as to investigate
further the environmental and societal impacts and acceptance of intensive energy
The major economic issue for aviation biofuels is their lack of competitiveness
with conventional fuel, at least in the first decade of deployment, and the changes
in feedstock prices. Both biomass availability and the economics demonstrate the
need for more efficient processing pathways, with higher yields and reduced costs,
and for new sources of feedstocks.
To start up the production of aviation biofuels, a combination of measures will
be required to achieve the initial target. In particular, an overall field-to-wing
strategic plan could be an efficient approach that would push for the emergence
of a number of ‘end-to-end’ projects addressing the complete production chain,
from feedstock to fuel.
Means of funding could include the possible use of ETS revenues complemented
by a limited quota mandate policy in a ‘push and pull’ approach that guarantees
the deployment takes place and also offers the distribution of funding to a wider
range of players. It suggests the Commission explores the possibility of including aviation biofuels
in the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which stipulates a minimum share of 10%
renewable energy in transport by 2020.
BTL and HRJ pathways are currently the most mature processes for a deployment
by 2020 but the higher investment required for BTL plants, although they are potentially
more efficient, is another economic barrier to be overcome. Even for an institution
like the European Investment Bank, reports the study, such an investment would
be too risky. A way to reduce the risk and raise the capital would be to establish public-private
partnerships in which investment is shared between private entities and governments,
with eventually additional grants from Europe.
Although biofuels are zero rated under the ETS, this alone is not a sufficient
incentive for deployment, finds the report. It estimates that EU member states will raise around €29.2 billion over the 2012-2020
period from ETS auctions.
The 2% biofuel share of the aviation fuel market by 2020 represents production
of 1.25 million tonnes of aviation biofuel to be uplifted in Europe. A strategic
plan that involved both subsidising aviation biofuel use for a five-year period
at a cost of around €3.6 billion and half the aviation share of the overall €10
billion investment required to build the necessary two HRJ and four BTL plants
could be met from ETS revenues.
The SWAFEA findings, first presented at a conference in February (see article),
have already prompted the Commission into action. In June, along with Airbus, leading European airlines and biofuel producers,
the Commission’s energy directorate launched the ‘Biofuel Flightpath’ initiative
to speed up the introduction and commercialisation of aviation biofuels in Europe.
It sets out a roadmap for achieving an annual production of two million tonnes
of sustainable biofuel from European-sourced feedstock by 2020 (see article).
In separate news, the Commission last week approved the first voluntary sustainability
schemes, with the aim of ensuring biofuels used in Europe meet strict sustainability
criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The criteria covers
land use issues and sets minimum levels of GHG savings over the whole production
chain compared to fossil fuels. These schemes now have open access to the EU market
without further verification of sustainability aspects.
Each scheme is required to monitor the whole chain and appoints independent auditors
to carry out the controls. Out of 25 applications, seven EU and international
schemes have been approved in the first assessment round, including the Swiss-based
Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).
A multi-stakeholder initiative, RSB has developed a global sustainability standard
and certification system for biofuel production. It represents over 120 organisations
globally, including farmers, regulators and NGOs. The aviation industry has thrown
its weight behind the RSB as the main institution to verify the sustainability
of aviation biofuels.
The report is at
The report contains statements such as (page 11)
If this target is technically possible, it is underlined that it requires a significant
effort and investment in agriculture, cultivating a large amount of lands not
cultivated today, the availability of fertilizers and of manpower. Indeed agriculture
appears as the main potential source of biomass. From the yield increase technical
point of view, meeting the demand for biomass seems feasible by 2050. However
there is a significant challenge to achieve the foreseen development of the production
in the next 40 years. Reaching a carbon neutral growth at 2020 emissions level from 20308 would for example request a rate of increase of the biomass production between
2020 and 2030 that appears extremely hard to achieve. This means that achieving
carbon-neutral growth at 2020 levels will depend on economic measures beyond 2030.
(page 4 7)
An additional methodological issue regarding LCA is related to indirect land
use change (iLUC). Land use change may indeed result as an indirect consequence
of the deployment of biofuel and may not be immediately visible. Indirect land
use change results from the displacement of cultures because of the deployment
of energy crops on areas that were used for other purposes and especially for
food production. iLUC is difficult to observe and evaluate as it is an indirect
process with a temporal and geographical shift. It’s also something difficult
to control through certification schemes since it falls outside of the control
of the audited companies (agricultural producers). Currently neither the RSB nor
the RED have introduced iLUC in their standards and there is today no consensus
on a methodology to address iLUC in LCA.
In particular, it should be noted that the major part of the biomass is likely
to come from the conversion of what is currently grazing lands, as the potential
from croplands in 2050 is quite limited.
From the assessment performed within SWAFEA, it was concluded that, with the
current transformation processes (Fischer-Tropsch and oils hydroprocessing), an
excessive fraction of the traditional biomass (from agriculture and forestry)
possibly produced in 2050 would be required in order to achieve the aviation industry
target of halving emissions in 2050 compared to 2005. Radically more efficient
biomass or processes and also revolutionary aircraft technologies would be necessary
to meet this goal.
Read more »
Airline’s pioneering biofuel flight grounded after delivery hitch
by ClickGreen staff.
27 July 2011
Thomson Airways run out of testing time for biofuel flight.
The UK’s first commercial flight powered by sustainable biofuels has been postponed
after delivery problems, airline Thomson Airways confirmed this afternoon.
Thomson Airways’ flight TOM7424 from Birmingham to Palma was scheduled to make
aviation history tomorrow by being the first to fly passengers on sustainable
biofuel. [Not the first passenger flight to claim it was powered using “sustainable”
But an announcement today from the airline said the green fuel pilot had been
scraped although the flight will continue as scheduled – but fuelled with conventional
jet fuel instead.
Thomson Airways’ communications director, Christian Cull said in a statement:
“A delay beyond our control during the transportation of the sustainable biofuel
from source in the USA, into the UK, has meant that we were unable to conduct
our stringent testing process in time for the first scheduled customer flight.
“Given that we are now heading into the busiest part of the summer season, we
will continue as planned with flights from September, so that we avoid the need
for testing during our peak flying period.
“Once the required testing has been conducted as planned, we will then be in
a position to confirm a new revised scheduled customer flight using this sustainable
The fuel was supplied by Dutch-based company, SkyNRG, who was being advised by
an independent Sustainability Board consisting of two leading NGOs and a leading
European scientific institute.
It was originally hoped the weekly sustainable biofuel flights would operate
for one year from Birmingham to Palma in the summer and Birmingham to Alicante
in the winter.
Comment from an AirportWatch member:
I wonder if, after KLM and Finnair, SkyNRG couldn’t get hold of any more used
cooking oil (and Thomson presumably would have wanted the PR from using that at
least for the first flight)?
Chipping in to help the environment: Thomson Airways launches aircraft powered
by COOKING OIL (Mail)
Date Added: 2nd July 2011
Next month, Thomson Airways will become Britain’s 1st airline to fly customers
on biofuel – in this case cooking oil – when it operates a service to Spain.
It plans to operate the flight from Birmingham to Palma, on July 28 once final
safety clearance is received. Flights will use a 50/50 blend of Jet A1 fuel and
hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuel — made from used cooking oil.
After that weekly flights to Spain using biofuel will begin in September.
Click here to view full story…
IUCN and WWF International give their backing to “sustainable” biofuels and their
use by the EU
Date Added: 25th July 2011
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and WWF have welcomed
the recognition of the new Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels certification system by the European Commission, for meeting the sustainability criteria of the Renewable
Energy Directive. They believe it is crucial for biofuels to be produced in a
way that is consistent with sustainable resource management, contributing to both
positive economic and social development. Click here to view full story…
Lufthansa will get its biofuel from Neste Oil, with palm oil likely to be sneaked
into the mix
Date Added: 22nd July 2011
This is a very worrying article about biofuel Lufthansa will be getting from
Neste Oil, which is well known for using large quantities of palm oil. It appears that though Lufthansa is saying all the suitable greenwash things
about its flights at present, using only camelina, jatropha and animal fats, as
Neste Oil deals largely with palm oil, it is likely that so called “sustainably
sourced” palm oil will get into the mix, and Lufthansa is not bothered about that.
Click here to view full story…
Finnair flies commercial flight Amsterdam to Helsinki on 50% cooking oil
Date Added: 21st July 2011
Finnair has joined KLM and Lufthansa to use blended sustainable jet biofuel on
a commercial scheduled flight.
Both engines of an Airbus A319 were fuelled with a mix of 50% biofuel derived Click here to view full story…
from used cooking oil and 50% conventional jet fuel. The 1,500km journey between
Amsterdam and Helsinki was the longest scheduled flight so far to use biofuel.
Finnair plans to carry out a series of 4 such flights over the coming weeks.
The fuel is from SkyNRG.