The global aviation industry is responsible for 12% of carbon emission from all transports sources and around 2% of all human produce carbon dioxide emissions. Aviation’s share of the greenhouse gas emission will likely grow in the coming years as air travel increases.
The Rise of Sustainability Energy in Air Travel
Coupled with the fact of spiraling fuel costs, airlines are even more motivated to look at biofuels to power their planes. Aircraft manufacturers, scientists and academics have banded together in associations like the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group and the Algal Biomass Organization to develop the use of sustainable biofuels for aviation.
Reducing Environmental Footprint
Biofuels represent the most viable means to cut carbon emissions for airlines and remain the key building block in the airline industry’s goal of carbon neutral growth. There has been much development in designs and material to improve fuel efficiency and other alternative energy sources like solar power remain in initial stages. Biofuels would not require modifications to commercial airplanes; they would just replace the current Jet-A fuel.
Some airlines like KLM, Finnair and Continental Airlines have used biofuels on commercial flights shortly after international aviation regulators approved the use of biofuels in 2011. Other airlines around the world may likely follow suit.
Despite the willingness of major airlines and manufacturers to use biofuels, the most prohibitive factors preventing widespread use are the availability and cost of biofuels. Presently, airplane biofuels still cost three to five times as much as jet fuel, Air Transport Action Group said. Commercially the biofuel industry is still in its infancy and manufacturers may not be able to cope with increased demand.
Neste Oil the supplier of Lufthansa’s biofuel during its six-month test flights could not produce the airlines required amount. Aviation officials urged government during the July 2012 Farnborough Airshow to help implement policies to create a flourishing market in sustainable market in biofuels similar to initiatives that helped alternative fuels in road transport.
Biofuels also can present ecological downsides. The demand for land to grow crops for biofuel has put added pressure on agriculture in poor nations and could displace existing natural habitats. Concerns have also been raised about the additional carbon emissions from burning down forests and grasslands to grow fuel crops.
There have also been concerns that using crops like sugar cane and corn to create biofuels could push food prices higher following the poor harvest in growing regions. To counter that assertion, airlines may have to look at second generation fuels using non-food crops like camelina and jatropha. The industry is also investigating ways to develop aviation fuel from municipal waste, of which lack of supply may not be a problem as the megacities around the world can produce millions of tons of organic waste to convert into biofuels.
The aviation industry is increasingly seeing potential in biofuels but the widespread adoption of biofuels still faces many challenges, more testing and government support before jet fuel consumption can be reduced.
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