I never thought I would live to see the day when the airline industry and conservation organisations would work together. And yet Boeing and a number of the major airlines are being supported and advised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to form the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group.
The group will work to enable the commercial use of renewable fuel sources that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while lessening commercial aviation’s exposure to oil price volatility and dependence on fossil fuels.
WWF global bioenergy coordinator Jean-Philippe Denruyter said:
“We welcome the aviation sector’s will to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and appreciate their efforts to ensure the sustainability of their biofuels sourcing.”
Group members, who include Air France, Air New Zealand, ANA, Cargolux, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS and Virgin Atlantic, have all signed up to a sustainability pledge. This stipulates that any sustainable biofuel must perform as well as or better than kerosene-based fuel, but with a smaller carbon lifecycle.
In addition, the group will only consider renewable sources which minimise biodiversity impacts – fuels that require minimal land, water and energy to produce and don’t compete with food or fresh water resources. The cultivation and harvest of plant stocks must provide value to local communities.
The group has announced two initial research projects. Boeing will fund Assistant Professor Rob Bailis of Yale university to perform a comprehensive sustainability assessment of jatropha curcas to include lifecycle CO2 emissions and the socio-economic impacts to farmers in developing nations. The NRDC will conduct an assessment of algae to ensure it meets the groups sustainability criteria.
NRDC senior attorney said: “This taskforce comes at just the right time to help airlines cut costs and decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.