The article below appeared today in the International Herald
Tribune, it follows up with a few discussions BEST already had.
Airlines, being the biggest contributers to greenhouse emissions
are now leading the efforts to fly their jets on biofuels and some
are even making pledges to use non-food crops and algae only.
The International Herald Tribune
July 9, 2008 Wednesday
Fuel prices force airlines into action;
BUSINESS OF GREEN
BYLINE: Elisabeth Rosenthal - The New York Times Media Group
SECTION: FINANCE; Pg. 11
LENGTH: 739 words
The airline industry is traditionally seen as a bad actor in the
global emissions debate. Air travel is by far the fastest-growing
source of global greenhouse gas emissions, still rising by an
about 5 percent a year.
Want to reduce your personal carbon footprint? A round-trip flight
for a family of four from London to Los Angeles generates more
carbon emissions than commuting by car for a year. It is, indeed,
a worrisome and hard-to-resolve trajectory.
But it's summertime and people are flying, so here's a bit of
light at the end of this tunnel: A recent report by the research
group Innovest describes how the airline industry is now ''leading
efforts to develop sustainable biofuels,'' and it points to some
level of success.
''The prospects for this type of fuel are very long term, but in
the midterm (next generation of airliners) biofuel and regular or
synthetic fuel blends are likely, with potential for a dramatic
reduction in emissions,'' the report said.
Given the price of oil, interest in finding alternatives to fossil
fuels, of course, makes sense - the goal not being just greener
aircraft but also survival of the industry. With oil prices
doubling in the past year, fuel now accounts for 30 percent to 50
percent of airlines' costs.
If governments insist that airline ticket prices reflect the
''cost'' of airplane emissions into the atmosphere - as the EU
plans - fares could skyrocket to a point where they were
unaffordable. If the full costs of carbon emissions are factored
into the equation, the price of a three-hour flight could rise by
$756, the Innovest report said. With that, few airlines would
manage to stay in business.
Necessity, then, is the mother of invention.
''If there ever was an incentive to create alternative fuels,
$140-a-barrel oil is it,'' said Paul Charles, communications
director of Virgin Atlantic, though he added that the
''environmental issue is still the primary incentive.''
Charles predicted that given the fast pace of current research,
''it is likely that within five years you'll have commercial jets
flying on algae - it will be as quick and dramatic as the shift to
A number of airlines and aircraft makers are furiously exploring
alternative fuels. Virgin led the pack, flying a jumbo jet from
London to Amsterdam this year with one of its four tanks using
biofuel, in this case made of a blend of oil from nuts and
coconut. Other airlines have followed.
This month, Rob Fyfe, the chief executive of Air New Zealand,
committed to running its fleet on 10 percent biofuels by 2013. He
further vowed to use only biofuels made from nonfood plants,
focusing on importing fuel from jatropha plantations in Africa and
India. Jatropha is a plant that grows in semiarid regions, and its
oil can be converted into jet fuel.
Biofuels ''present particularly exciting opportunities when placed
against a backdrop of jet fuel prices that have recently been as
high as $174 a barrel,'' Fyfe said.
Japan Airlines plans to run a flight partly on biofuel by next
S??bastien Remy, who is in charge of Airbus's alternative fuel
program, predicts that 25 percent of jet fuel will be derived from
nonpetroleum sources by 2025. In the past few years, research has
shown that jet engines today can run on properly refined biofuels,
so no mechanical modifications are essential.
Industry experts are pinning their hope on oil from algae, because
it is cheap and easily convertible into a fuel that can be used in
a plane. Companies like Boeing and Chevron, as well as the U.S.
military, are working on the technology. One general challenge is
to refine biofuels so that they function in the cold temperatures
A couple of years ago most airlines were combating climate change
with public relations. And public relations is certainly still a
problem. This past week, the British Advertising Standards Agency
criticized EasyJet for claiming that its flights generated 22
percent less emissions than traditional airlines.
But sky-high fuel prices are moving polluters to genuine action.
Fuel prices are the best friend the environment has these days.
Are the airlines' efforts science fiction?
Electric cars and planes powered by algae fuel are technically
possible if the research, money and will are there. So now with
oil prices high and carbon taxes on the horizon, the industry
should be able to find alternatives that will ensure its survival,
and spare the environment as well.
Environmental and Life Sciences