In for the long haul

Aviation has long been climate change’s bogeyman. Does a new agreement show the industry is tackling its impacts?

If the economics of sustainable jet fuel suggest an industry without a future, the optimism displayed by Maarten van Dijk may seem foolhardy – or perhaps audacious, depending on your viewpoint. But the chief executive of biofuels provider SkyNRG dismisses short-term pessimism and points to a tenfold rise in demand in 2015-16 for its products, which are sourced from manufacturers and made from waste cooking oil and non-food crops.

Despite this apparent boom, the pessimists will remind van Dijk that last year his firm provided only ‘a few thousand tonnes’ of biofuels to Los Angeles, Oslo and Stockholm airports – enough for about 150 long-haul flights. Moreover, a report by the University of Utrecht published in February estimated that biofuels will cost on average €762/t more than conventional jet fuel between 2020 and 2030. That is equivalent to €242/t of CO2 saved, far above the prevailing EU carbon price of around €5/t. If industry subsidies are not forthcoming, only 13,000 tonnes will be used in European flights in 2030, the report says – just 0.02% of all fuel.

Industry of the future?

Van Dijk swats aside that assessment: ‘We know this is a long-term industry, but we are moving to a bio-based economy and there is a greater realisation ...

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