EU Sees ‘Strategic Advantage’ of Biofuels in Aviation
by Hannah Black and Sarantis Michalopoulos (EurActiv) In sectors like aviation where decarbonisation options are limited, there is a strategic advantage in encouraging the use of biofuels, a European Commission official has said.
The aviation sector is dependent on liquid fuels and has few options other than biofuels when it comes to using renewable energies.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target of ramping up biofuels use to 10% of all consumption by 2017, saying they have the potential to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint by up to 80%.
The big issue now for the industry is whether they can be deployed on a sufficiently large scale to make a difference to the airline sector’s carbon emissions – without wrecking the environment.
“Several pathways have now been certificated, and about 2,500 commercial flights have now taken place using some amount of biofuels,” the EU official (Richard Clarkson, a policy officer at the European Commission’s Aviation Policy Unit) said, highlighting that biofuels still represent a small portion of fuels that are used in air transport.
According to Clarkson, the Commission’s proposed revision of the renewable energy directive provides a greater incentive for the use of biofuels in aviation than previously, by weighting them 20% higher than fuels used in other modes.
“The Commission sees that there is a strategic advantage in trying to encourage the use of biofuels in sectors like aviation where there are a fewer number of alternative decarbonisation options,” he said.
“Now, that 20% weighting applies not just to aviation but also to maritime,” he noted.
Despite the political backlash against biofuels, Boeing has persevered in trying to find sustainable alternatives, Morgan (Darrin Morgan, director of sustainable biofuel strategy at Boeing) said. It is currently negotiating an agreement with China over the air pollution produced by the burning of crop residue.
“The government in China has figured out that they need to do something with a lot of these crop residues besides burning. What they want to do is, among other things, sustainable fuels,” he stated.
“While I know in Brussels biofuels are not sexy anymore, biofuels and the backlash against them… For those of you in Brussels, get out there and see what’s happening in the world,” Morgan said.
Certification schemes such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RBS) can audit an individual project and assess the social and labour angle too, she said.
According to Bramble (Barbara Bramble from the National Wildlife Federation), ramping up production hinges mainly on soil management, including land use, social issues, and conservation.
“You can’t just say that biofuels are good or bad by category—it all depends. So this isn’t a fight against food versus fuel—that’s way too simplistic. This is really about how we use our land. All types of land uses are in competition with all other types of land uses,” she added. READ MORE