In an effort to make good on a pledge to stop increasing carbon emissions by 2020, and to halve its carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2050, the airline industry is beginning to conduct flights that use biofuels, The New York Times reports.
In a separate story from October 9, the Times notes airlines burn between 210 million and 220 million tons of fuel and generate 650 million tons of carbon emissions each year. The International Air Transport Association has estimated replacing 3 percent of the kerosene in jet fuel could reduce CO2 emissions by more than 10 million tons, it reports.
Biofuel development has also been motivated by rising fuel prices. And while biofuel use is certainly growing within the airline industry, it is still a relatively recent phenomenon – it was only in July that standards group ASTM International approved commercial use of jet fuels derived from plant oils and animals fats.
Airlines like Lufthansa and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are among those in trials, but the Times says others are expect to follow. And, while trials have shown biofuels can reduce fuel consumption, their use among airlines still has a long way to go, a Lufthansa rep told the Times.
Challenges like supply, cost and land and water supply are the main hurdles to overcome, the Times says. Biofuel is more than double the price of regular aviation fuel. Fuel production from crops was blamed for a rise in food prices and demand for land could spell trouble for farmers or could endanger existing habitats. That’s why the industry is looking at plants like jatropha that can grow in dry landscapes, and algae, which will not compromise land.
The CEO of Jatro, which provides Jatrapha oil, a key ingredient in biofuels used by airlines, predicts that biofuel prices will become competitive in 2014-2015 and that the biofuel market will be worth $2 billion in 2015 and $11 billion to $19 billion by 2020.