Bio-jet fuel plan takes off

The widespread introduction of bio-fuels in the aviation industry would result in carbon cuts worth billions to Europe, a think tank report says.

The Policy Exchange report argues for an EU-wide mandate requiring the proportion of jet fuel from or blended with sustainable bio-jet fuel to start from 20 per cent in 2020 rising to 80% by 2050.

It says this would create carbon emissions reductions worth £37.41bn in the UK and £305.43bn across the EU at 2009 prices.

Ben Caldecott, author of the report, Green Skies Thinking, and head of the centre right think tank’s energy and environment unit, said: “If left unchecked emissions from aviation are set to account for up to a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

He added: “We do need to look at reducing demand for flights, but switching from standard jet fuel to sustainable bio-jet fuel is currently the only viable option to significantly reduce emissions from the flights that remain.”

An EU-wide Sustainable Bio-jet Fuel Blending Mandate to replace standard kerosene jet fuel would cut UK and EU aviation sector greenhouse gas emissions by 15 and 60%, the report says.

Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic have trialled flights using up to 20% biofuel.

Jill Brady, the airline’s director of corporate responsibility and government affairs, said: “We welcome the Policy Exchange’s call for prioritising the use of sustainable biofuels by the aviation industry.

“Biofuels for aviation are in their infancy and so we are in a unique position to ensure that this new fuel supply chain evolves sustainably from the outset.

“The right biofuels have the potential to substantially reduce aviation emissions in the medium to long-term.”

But critics argue some biofuels, made from grain or oil crops, create more carbon than they save and raise food prices for the poor.

Green activists also say growing crops for biofuel leads to rainforest destruction and loss of habitat.

Richard Dyer, Friends of the Earth transport campaigner, said: “Growing crops for fuel is driving deforestation on a massive scale.

“When the full impact of this is taken into account, the biofuels added to our petrol and diesel may be producing more than twice the carbon dioxide of the fossil fuels they replace.

“New fuels for planes must be proven to cut overall emissions before governments commit to targets for them.

For the full report, Green Skies Thinking: promoting the development and commercialisation of sustainable bio-jet fuels, go to

David Gibbs

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