[Read the opposing view, “The High-Flown Fantasy of Aviation Biofuels,” by Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch.]
– by Jim Lane, Editor & Publisher, Biofuels Digest
One striking image for all of us in 2016 has been the graceful lines of the Solar Impulse as it shuttled around the globe in a remarkable demonstration of the potential of solar energy for powered flight.
But if we reflect upon the wingspan, the minuscule payload, the multi-month journey, the speed and the discomfort involved, we might sympathize with Boeing executive Julie Felgar when she stated at ABLC this year, “We’re all excited about solar. I’m excited about solar, but as a commercial reality we are decades and decades away.”
By the 21st Century, we’ll have many more technological options for limiting and adapting to climate change, but in there here and now, when it comes to aviation, representing 5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, for now we have two strategies and two alone. Fuel efficiency and renewable fuels.
There are limits on fuel efficiency because of the 30-40 year replacement cycle for jets, and the 10-20 year development cycle. Designs only on a drawing board today will be not deployed until the 2020s or 2030s, and jets we have in service today will be still flying, somewhere, in the 2050s.
So it is not a shock to observers that airlines such as Virgin, United Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific have been investing in renewable fuel companies. The US government has made substantial investments in search of sustainable military jet fuels, also. Other airlines are expected to follow suit, and more than 30 of them have joined R&D consortia, conducted flight certification tests and in other ways contributed towards the deployment of these fuels.