that the aviation industry intends to use)
‘complete nonsense’ and EU-wide targets to increase their use should be scrapped
says letter to transport minister
is being driven by European targets for more transport fuel to come from biofuels,
say a group of prominent UK scientists.
The EU has a target for 10 per cent of total transport fuel to be derived from
renewable sources by 2020. Observers estimate the vast majority of these targets
will be met by biofuels, mainly sourced from food crops, such as oil seeds, palm
oil, sugar cane, beet and wheat.
The UK is currently aiming to reach 5 per cent of fuel from renewable sources
by 2013 and admits that 90 per cent or more of the increase to 10 per cent by
2020 will be met by crop-based biofuels.
The biofuels target was originally designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions
but in a letter sent to the transport minister Philip Hammond, and seen by the
Ecologist, 19 prominent scientists from across the UK say crop-based biofuels will actually ‘substantially increase
According to the scientists, in a rush to promote biofues both the UK and EU
had failed to take account of two factors – the high-use of nitrogen fertilisers
and land-use change brought about by the increasing demand for land to grow biofuel
crops instead of food.
‘The additional demand for grains, oilseeds and sugars brought about by increased
biofuel production will indirectly bring about the conversion of land currently
under forest or other natural ecosystem into agricultural land, with the concomitant
release into the atmosphere of carbon stored in trees and soil,’ says the letter.
Professor Keith Smith, of University of Edinburgh, one of the letter’s co-authors, says the release of carbon dioxide would be
‘huge’ compared to the savings from the crops taking in CO2 from the atmosphere
to grow. He says another factor, emissions related to fertiliser-use, was also
‘There has been a naivety that biofuels are carbon neutral but when we count
the fossil fuel energy going into biofuels from fertiliser use and then also the
nitrous oxide emissions from using nitrogen fertilisers, the emissions are even
higher,’ says Professor Smith.
Both the UK and EU have been under heavy pressure from environmentalists ever
since they announced the targets for biofuels. In April a
they contributed to higher greenhouse gas emissions, food price rises and deforestation.
open letter the scientists urge the UK to ‘provide leadership’ by only accepting
biofuels that are proven to reduce emissions and do not contribute to food insecurity
or conflicts over land.
Action Aid, which claims the biofuels targets will lead to
from real waste rather than crops and promoting electric cars as alternatives
to meeting the EU renewable transport targets.
World Economic Forum report identifies biofuels as the ‘game changer’ to achieve aviation emission targets
2050 will be a significant challenge given an 85% CO2 emissions reduction gap.
in newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft expected during the timeframe. The report
identifies four key levers to reduce aviation carbon emissions:
efficiency improvement potential of other technological innovations but 13.6 million
barrels of sustainable second generation biofuels with significantly lower lifecycle
CO2 emissions would be required daily by 2050 to meet the target.
necessary funds for the implementation of the necessary technological and infrastructure
improvements and it will require the involvement of capital markets, private equity
and, for developing countries, the multilateral development banks to fill in the
Booz & Company, demand for passenger and cargo is projected to grow by 4.5%
per year, from 540 billion revenue tonne kilometres in 2010 to 3,000 billion in
3% a year, from 630 million tonnes in 2010 to around 2,000 million tonnes in 2050,
assuming industry fleet improvements take place to replace old aircraft and cover
demand growth with newer more fuel and CO2 efficient aircraft.
of 330 million tonnes in 2050 would equal almost three times today’s total aviation
it can grow and still reach its CO2 targets,” says the report.
and urgency of implementing aviation infrastructure improvements such as the US
NextGen and the Single European Sky air traffic management projects. Industry
should also work with policy-makers to develop financial and legal incentives
to increase investment into incremental R&D for radical new aircraft technologies
and to drive vertical partnerships with stakeholders along the entire biofuel
with ICAO in the development of a global sectoral approach on market-based measures
for aviation through partnerships with experts from the carbon finance community,
and ensure that any measures that are developed focus on incentivising the parties
best placed to make the CO2 abatement investment.
investment in reducing carbon by the aviation industry. Given that the report
had a considerable input from airline and aviation interests, it unsurprisingly
rejects green taxes and levies that are currently being implemented or discussed
in different countries. It cautions that “taxes usually result in a net outflow
of funds from the industry that inhibits investment in CO2 reduction projects.”
is likely to occur with such measures through the cost increase of air travel
if carriers pass costs on to customers and the resulting likely slight decrease
in air traffic. “In addition, the potential macroeconomic effect of more expensive
and thus reduced air travel on GDP and economic development must be considered,”
it says, adding that aviation is an important enabler for the trade of goods,
tourism, services and the socioeconomic development of nations.
the industry target would represent a shift to 90% sustainable biofuels in 2050,
estimates the report’s researchers. [ 13.6 million barrels per day works out at 4.9 billion barrels per year. This
is well over 6 times current global biofuels production. AirportWatch calculation.
biggest challenge would be in building up the supply of sustainable biofuels and promoting their prioritisation for use in the aviation sector.
quantum leap in technology and increase production,” he said. “The necessary market
dynamics will only develop if governments set the right incentives for the agricultural
sector, energy producers and the airlines to incubate a global aviation biofuel
production system. Due to the early stage of development and high risks involved
with aviation biofuels, a new innovative approach of all involved stakeholders
and government stakeholders to engage in a wider discussion among themselves and
with non-governmental communities to “build a practical enabling environment that
should be conducive to catalysing a step change in private sector action to decrease
aviation CO2 emissions, develop and deploy revolutionary existing and new technologies,
and provide sustainable investment choices at scale and speed.”
energy and financial services industries, governments, universities and international
Aviation’ report (download)
2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the forecast period
2015 – 2020. (That’s about half of current Saudi oil production).
demand of 4.9 billion barrels biofuel by 2050)
MIT analysis emphasises the large variability in greenhouse gas emissions from jet biofuel production
that don’t require deforestation or fertile soil to grow
of an effort to combat soaring fuel prices and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
a blend of biofuel and petroleum. Since then, a number of airlines around the
world have flown biofuel test flights, and Lufthansa is racing to be the first
carrier to run daily flights on a biofuel blend.
industry may want to cool its jets and make sure it has examined biofuels’ complete
carbon footprint before making an all-out push, reports Jennifer Chu, MIT News
Office. They say that when a biofuel’s origins are factored in – for example,
taking into account whether the fuel is made from palm oil grown in a clear-cut
rainforest – conventional fossil fuels may sometimes be the greener choice.
in high emissions, if done improperly,” says James Hileman, principal research
engineer in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who has published
the results of a study conducted with MIT graduate students Russell Stratton and
Hsin Min Wong in the online version of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
“You can’t simply say a biofuel is good or bad – it depends on how it’s produced
and processed, and that’s part of the debate that hasn’t been brought forward.”
conventional petroleum-based jet fuel and ‘drop-in’ biofuels: alternatives that
can directly replace conventional fuels with little or no change to existing infrastructure
or vehicles. In a previous report, ‘Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Alternative
Fuels’ for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Partnership for Air Transportation
Noise and Emissions Reduction (PARTNER), they calculated the emissions throughout
the life cycle of a biofuel, ‘from well to wake’ – from acquiring the biomass
to transporting it to converting it to fuel, as well as its combustion.
release of carbon dioxide.”
the entire biofuel life cycle of diesel engine fuel compared with jet fuel, and
found that changing key parameters can dramatically change the total greenhouse
gas emissions from a given biofuel.
of land used to grow biofuel components such as soy, palm and rapeseed. For example,
Hileman and his team calculated that biofuels derived from palm oil emitted 55
times more carbon dioxide if the palm oil came from a plantation located in a
converted rainforest rather than a previously cleared area. Depending on the type
of land used, biofuels could ultimately emit 10 times more carbon dioxide than
says Hileman, noting that by conventional standards, “coal-to-liquid is not a
about how to scale up biofuel production. The problem, he says, is not so much
the technology to convert biofuels – companies like Choren and Rentech have successfully
built small-scale biofuel production facilities and are looking to expand in the
near future. Rather, Hileman says the challenge is in allocating large areas of
land to cultivate enough biomass, in a sustainable fashion, to feed the growing
demand for biofuels.
and salicornia that don’t require deforestation or fertile soil to grow. Scientists
are exploring these as a fuel source, particularly since they also do not require
by-products. For example, the process of converting jatropha to biofuel also yields
solid biomass: for every kilogram of jatropha oil produced, 0.8 kilograms of meal,
1.1 kilograms of shells and 1.7 kilograms of husks are created. These co-products
could be used to produce electricity, for animal feed or as fertiliser. Hileman
says that this is a great example of how co-products can have a large impact on
the carbon dioxide emissions of a fuel.
production. In making decisions on how to build infrastructure and resources to
support a larger biofuel economy, he says researchers also need to look at the
biofuel life cycle in terms of cost and yield.
quantity,” Hileman says. “Greenhouse gases are just part of the equation, and
there’s a lot of interesting work going on in this field.”
Wong. The work was funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and Air Force
Greenhouse Gas Inventories of Alternative Middle Distillate Transportation Fuels
$70 billion investment required to meet aviation biofuel ambitions, although industry denies setting target
targets, and is needed now, said Mitch Hawkins, the CEO of BioJet International,
a company that aims to become a leading global feedstock producer and supplier
of renewable jet fuel.
had set a target of 6 per cent of jet fuel coming from sustainable biofuels by
2020 but because of the lead times involved, he said the multi-billion investment
would have to start flowing immediately to achieve the goal.
the overall aviation mix by 2050. Meanwhile, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG),
the industry umbrella organisation, has since clarified its position on aviation
biofuel targets, saying they had not been set.
needed by using just one of the identified feedstocks of jatropha, camelina, algae
or waste biomass. Using jatropha as the main feedstock, for example, would require
an investment of around $30 billion to fund 2,000 farms of 10,000 hectares each,
he said. Similarly, if it was camelina then an investment of $34 billion would
be needed to cover 8,500 farms. In addition, he estimated $34 billion would be
required to build 67 bio-refining plants at a cost of $350 million to $500 million
biofuels players, “the numbers just don’t wash,” said Hawkins.
billion funding commitment from Equity Partners Fund in February and has since
announced a number of deals. The company has just agreed to merge with Florida-based
Abundant Biofuels, a leading international feedstock developer that controls over
4 million hectares in 10 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Abundant
claims to have sufficient nursery seed stock to develop jatropha plantations over
the next three years capable of producing more than 20 million barrels of biofuel.
either focus solely on refining or only on the production of feedstock. BioJet
will be one of the few, if not the only, international biofuels company that can
control all of its feedstock. This provides BioJet with the ability to control
its internal allocation of resources for a significant cost control advantage
while other companies are subject to severe fluctuations in cost and availability
goal of becoming the world’s largest owner and developer of feedstock for renewable
jet fuel and green diesel. “Ownership and control of feedstock is the absolute
key to all biofuels,” he added.
(ABI), a developer of small distributive refining systems in the 10 to 15 million
gallon-per-year range. Under the agreement, BioJet will use ABI’s patented RWR
System to build refineries to produce aviation biofuels from native feedstocks
at locations around the globe.
main constituent of vegetable oils and animal fats) into aviation biofuels. The
technology is under development for sale as a small distributive refining system
to global entities or foreign governments that aspire to produce aviation biofuels
from native feedstocks, says ABI. Last month, ABI announced that it had concluded
a licence agreement to secure exclusive rights to a technology portfolio developed
at North Carolina State University for producing biofuels from triglycerides and
for producing products from genetically modified marine microalgae.
will sell stock and use the funds raised to reimburse the university for its investment
in patent applications, as well as allocate development capital to create a continuous
production model for the biofuel refining system. “This agreement is a major piece
in our plan to provide aviation biofuels internationally,” said ABI CEO Don Evans.
industry on environmental issues, has said that there is at present no actual
industry target for the use of biofuels. In its March 2011 publication ‘Powering
the Future of Flight’, ATAG said the sector was “striving to practically replace
6% of our fuel in 2020 with biofuel – we hope this figure can be higher.” However,
ATAG’s Haldane Dodd cautions against using the figure as an industry commitment.
approval to use a new generation of biofuels on passenger flights in the coming
months. The big challenge now is commercialisation. We need to get significant
quantities of cost-competitive, sustainably-sourced biofuel coming on stream in
order to fulfil our broader climate target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2050,”
he told GreenAir Online.
don’t know. We have used the 6% figure, certainly not as a goal or target, but
by way of saying this much could practically be produced by 2020 – given the right
fiscal incentives and signals, particularly from governments.
very rapidly – from nothing to certification in just over three years. Already
we have airlines signing forward purchase agreements and indeed contracts with
biofuel suppliers. The investment community is starting to wake up and increasing
interest is being shown to invest in this new energy source. Governments are also
identifying aviation as the most effective place to use sustainable biofuels.
Europe, in its recent transport white paper, has identified that biofuel use should
be prioritised for aviation because other transport modes have alternative energy
steps that governments can take to help get aviation biofuels off the ground.
We are not necessarily looking for subsidies – unlike many oil companies – but
we do want sustainable aviation biofuels to be given a boost, particularly in
the early years to help bring the cost differential down.
in aviation, let alone 6% or 40%. We fully expect that. But last year, airlines
spent $140 billion on fuel. This year, it could be as high as $175 billion and
we are not seeing any relief in the medium term from oil price rises. Over $35
billion price differential year-on-year would say that there is significant scope
for development of alternative sources. There is a big market out there for those
that want to invest.
as of yet.”
will take place during next month’s Paris Air Show, which aims to showcase current
developments and bring together suppliers, airline customers, investors and government
representatives. A number of leading biofuel companies are expected to take part
and an Investors’ Day is planned for Wednesday, 22 June.
a microalgae-based biofuel research project at Madrid Barajas Airport.
be located near the airport’s Terminal 4 and will become operational next month.
engine bench test facility, which would otherwise have been emitted into the atmosphere.
well as airport ground vehicles.
to fossil fuels, says Paul Steele from the Air Transport Action Group
sector to move into biofuels in a responsible way.
Having seen the issues caused by road transport’s use of first generation sources,
the aviation industry has been proactive in trying to ‘do it right,’ from the
start. At the same time, the aviation industry does not have the luxury of a variety
of renewable energy sources like other sectors (wind, solar, hydrogen etc) and
is therefore focussed on developing second generation sustainable biofuels as
a means of reducing GHG emissions.
We have been working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels to set in place
a set of robust criteria to determine the sustainability of feedstock, including
the impact that these crops will have on local populations and lifecycle CO2 emissions.
Grown responsibly, jatropha can have a positive impact on the livelihoods of those
growing it and also bring about impressive reductions in carbon emissions.
At the end of the day, any crop can be grown unsustainably. The success factor
is making sure we set standards so that crops can be grown in a way that doesn’t
impact negatively on people’s lives and resources and then putting in place a
structure to ensure that they are grown according to those standards.
In fact, a recent
an 85 per cent decrease in lifecycle carbon emissions, when grown in a responsible
way. But jatropha is just one potential source of biofuel for aviation – a range
of non-food crops and advanced biomass sources such as algae promise to provide
low-carbon fuel for air transport.
NGOs should be working with the aviation industry to lock this process in, creating
a vital source of new income for the people they aim to help. ActionAid, on its
website, offers supporters the “trip of a lifetime” to see their projects in action.
When they fly to Kenya or India this year, surely they would like to know that
their airline is investigating all avenues to reduce the footprint of that flight
– sustainable biofuels and all?
The aviation industry’s efforts are much wider than just biofuels. As outlined
on our website
make up a very important part of the aviation carbon reduction story and we are
determined to do a good job in using this fuel source, right from the start.
Paul Steele is executive director of the Air Transport Action Group
Starting aviation down a path of biofuels is highly difficult and controversial.
transport more and more passengers, year after year. They are not really making
meaningful (apart from the spin, which needs to be read very carefully indeed)
efforts to cut carbon.
2. The majority of trips by plane are not essential, and many could be made by
other means. Or for business trips, some could be done by video conferencing.
The industry would like more and more inessential, discretionary trips to be made
– needlessly producing high carbon emissions, using huge amounts of fuel.
3. The aviation industry claims it must have priviledged access to liquid fuels
(biofuels, once it has exhausted all other options) and transport uses on land
can go over to renewably- generated electricity.
and part from other non-food plant sources (bio diesel). It is all linked. If
jatropha can indeed produce a lot of fuel, and aviation takes it, the demand for
other biofuels for road transport still remains. It does not help reduce other
demand. If a very large amount of liquid fuels is needed, as our societies are
wedded and committed to these liquid fuels, it is not apparent why aviation should
get them, rather than more essential land based uses.
also potentially toxic to people and wildlife that come into contact with it.
on better soil and with more water. In order to produce a commercially valuable
crop, it would be likely that growers would want to irrigate and improve the soil.
If that is the case, that same soil could better be used for human food growing,
or even animal food growing.
crop use just increases the likelihood that even more land will have to be found
for food production. It can have a knock on effect, and that can inadvertently
damage biodiversity elsewhere, as other land is taken.
unused community lands out there, which could usefully be given over to crops
like jatropha. It appears from many organisations that this unused community
land is a bit of a myth, and it is often used by some of the poorest people for
grazing etc. New large, commercial jatropha plantations would throw these people
off their land.
many that this fuel – derived at some environmental cost – should be burned out
of the back of a jet, taking the affluent off on holiday, or to visit their second
have very low carbon emissions. This is often untrue, and some forms of biofuel
have quite high total lifetime carbon emissions.
at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, aircraft emissions cause other climatic effects,
one of the most important being the creation of contrails and high cirrus cloud.
Therefore it is conventional (the DfT do so) to add a multiplier of x2 for these
non-CO2 effects. This is the same whether a plane burns biofuel, or fossil fuel.
The net effect of burning fuel in a plane engine at altitude is twice (maybe even
more) than burning that same fuel back down on the ground.
food plants – jatropha appears to be preferable. However, once the aviation industry
is allowed to expand using immense quantities of biofuels, this will not take
any pressure off land in danger of palm oil plantations. The jatropha thing is
just another set of risks and problems, and does not remove the danger of palm
“carbon neutral growth” after 2020, if it is allowed to use a great deal of biofuel.
This also needs the industry to be able to buy offsets from elsewhere. It cannot
possibly grow in a carbon neutral way otherwise. The UK Committee on Climate
Change reported at the end of 2009, into the possible expansion of aviation in
the UK, and the carbon emission implication. They were not persuaded that the
industry would be able to use more than small amounts of biofuels.
it is managing at present to put out hopeful, optimistic (and rather unrealistic)
aspirations for low carbon this and low carbon that. These need to be taken
with a pinch of salt, and seen as the industry spin that they are. Read them
carefully, between the lines.
Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel six times worse than fossil
Campaigners are outraged over airline Lufthansa and German government funding
for jatropha biofuels trial
European investment companies continue to tout the biofuel as a ‘wonder-crop’
despite serious environmental and social impacts – Friends of the Earth report
Study predicts the yields of jatropha will fall in the next decade and that it
is better suited to community-level, rather than industrial-scale, production
for the biofuel market
Aviation sector wants to avoid a closed trading scheme and forced carbon emissions
New report by Friends of the Earth Europe says Jatropha fails to deliver
It provides growing evidence that the crop is failing to deliver on its promises
while simultaneously failing to prevent climate change or contribute to pro-poor
development. Many projects have already been abandoned because yields have stayed
below expectations, even on good soils. They say companies should stop land-grabbing
for jatropha. (FoE)
Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel 6 times worse than fossil
million biofuel trial.
plantations would produce 2.5 – 6 times more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil
fuels. The German government is wasting taxpayers’ money on a technology that
has few environmental benefits, and does much harm.
Biofuels transport targets are unethical, inquiry finds
to meet UK and European directives violates human rights, damages the environment,
and has led to problems of deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people.
Biofuels also contribute to poor harvests, commodity speculation and high oil
prices which raise the cost of fertilisers and transport. Targets had driven rapid
expansion in parts of the world with lower ethical standards.
for jatropha biofuels trial
The German government is financing a leading European airline’s biofuel trials
despite claims from environmental groups it could cause emissions six time greater
than fossil fuels.
biofuel trial run by leading European airline Lufthansa, who will be partly financing
the €6.6 million project.
aim ‘at reducing overall emissions in air traffic’. However, environmental groups
have raised concerns over the use of jatropha as a biofuel crop.
plantations would produce 2.5 to six times more greenhouse gas emissions than
aviation industry. In fact, it could end up increasing carbon emissions,’ says
Tim Rice, ActionAid’s biofuels expert.
indigenous communities’ farmland and are making life more difficult for people
in less industrialised countries.
can create huge social upheaval, including loss of land, homes and livelihoods,’
by environmental groups who believe it will have limited benefits for the environment.
taxpayers’ money on a technology that has few public or environmental benefits,
and is harming communities in Africa and India whose land is being grabbed for
jatropha,’ says Robbie Blake, agrofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
aims to switch biofuel production from palm oil to jatropha and is attempting
to ‘collect every single jatropha nut in the market’, according to a Lufthansa
spokesperson. The airline hope the plant-based jet fuel, made by Finnish biofuel
giant Neste Oil, will contain up to 60% jatropha oil.
will use a 50:50 mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene, during the six month
trial. Lufthansa claim 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be saved during the
trial and only sustainable sources of fuel will be used.
CO2,’ said a Lufthansa spokesperson. ‘We are doing our best to consider all sustainability
aspects in our trial, which is supervised by external scientists. If we discover
that we cannot fulfil our strict sustainability requirements, we will react accordingly.’
has been questioned and campaigners believe it leads to widespread deforestation.
climate that using palm oil in their flights will cause. But switching from palm
oil to jatropha is like flying from the frying pan into the fire. Jatropha is
responsible for large-scale land grabbing in Africa and India, displacing local
communities and destroying their livelihoods – with no evidence of a reduction
in carbon,’ says Blake.
to phase out nuclear has created a general confusion about the country’s overall
renewable targets and that biofuels were now part of that confusion. ‘I am not
sure why the German government is supporting this project. Other than that they
are experimenting with biofuels, they have no real legitimisation to do this,’
says FOE Transport campaigner Werner Reh.
of jatropha, saying there was ‘no uniform view at the moment’.
Lufthansa biofuel flights postponed by certification delay
a month because the fuel will not be certified in time by regulators. It planned
route using an International Aero Engine-powered
oil and traditional kerosene. Now pushed back to end of May.
Germany joins up with Lufthansa to sponsor biofuel 6 times worse than fossil
of government money is being ploughed into the 6 month €6.6 million biofuel trial.
A recent report by ActionAid and RSPB found that the development of jatropha plantations
would produce 2.5 – 6 times more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. The
German government is wasting taxpayers’ money on a technology that has few environmental
benefits, and does much harm.
Lufthansa first airline to use biofuel on commercial flights next spring
commercial flights on the Hamburg-Frankfurt
mix of biofuel and traditional kerosene. The purpose of the project is to conduct
a long term study on the effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and life. Lufthansa
is the first airline to test this fuel over a long period. The Federal Govt is
giving €2.5m for the Lufthansa project.
Biofuel approval nears, Lufhansa plans service trial in spring 2011 – fuel partly
from palm oil
from palm oil
plans for a 6-month in-service trail of a 50:50 mix of biofuel and conventional
kerosene using an Airbus A321. ASTM has already approved 50% blends of synthetic
paraffinic kerosenes (SPKs) produced from coal, natural gas or biomass using the
Fischer-Tropsch process. The bio-SPKs may be next, by March 2011.