Study: Airlines Should Aim to Use 80% Biofuels by 2050


A far reaching report has called on the aviation industry to drastically increase the use of biofuels, to make a 60% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The study, called ‘Green Skies Thinking‘, was published today by right wing think-tank Policy Exchange, and advocates the phase-in of an EU Sustainable Bio-Jet Fuel Blending Mandate by 2020, which would force aviation companies to commit to a rising proportion of jet fuel from sustainable bio-jet fuels.

Crucially, the report also reckons that growing the feedstock needed for advanced biofuels would require significantly less land and be more sustainable than first generation biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel, generally used by road transport.

In detail, the report’s key recommendations are:

  • The introduction of a EU Sustainable Bio-Fuel Jet Mandate, starting from 20% of aviation fuel in Europe being sourced from or blended with bio-fuel in 2020 and rising to 80% in 2050. The report claims this could reduce EU aviation sector carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 and save the UK £37.41 billion between 2020 and 2050.
  • Minimising the cost of supplying sustainable bio-jet fuels to ensure its production cost drops to around $80 a barrel by 2030, and $70 by 2050, which the report says compared well with the average jet fuel price between 2000 and 2008 of $62.29.
  • An increase in UK support for companies conducting research and development (R&D) into producing sustainable biofuels; in particular increasing the current R&D tax credit regime to include companies researching bio-jet fuels. Along with further tax support for the sector, it claims the support would cost less than £5 million a year.
  • Charging the Renewable Fuels Agency, which administrates the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, with the task of drawing up and enforcing standards to ensure bio-jet are produced sustainably and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking about the study, author Ben Caldecott, head of the Policy Exchange’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.”

“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.

“Biofuels in aviation can also be delivered in sufficient quantities to meet global demand – unlike biofuels for road transport.”

Image Credit – jurvetson on flickr

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.