The constant rise in fuel prices and the movement to cut fuel emissions are leading airline companies to develop biofuels. This year alone, the world’s airlines will emit 650 million tons of carbon emissions in the process of burning over 200 million tons of fuel. In recent years, the popularity of developing biofuels has increased and is now becoming more of a reality than a theory.
Airlines such as KLM, Lufthansa, and Finnair have used biofuel on flights that have carried passengers. This has served as motivation for other airline companies who have recently pledged to incorporate the use of biofuels in the next decade. For the time being, biofuel prices are relatively high because commercially, the biofuel industry has not reached maturity. Aviation biofuels from a technical standpoint, however, are quite advanced.
In Malaysia, Cosmo Biofuels is working to use plant sources for biofuel. Plants are the most popular source for producing biofuel, but perhaps the most widely available resource being researched is municipal waste. Currently scientists are studying ways to use organic waste material as fuel, and large cities in Asia alone could provide millions of tons of this waste.
In Germany, about a year ago, the first flight was completed with the use of 100% algae-based biofuel. The exhaust from this type of fuel has eight times fewer hydrocarbons than the standard Jet-A1 fuel and also has reduced nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions. High production costs have been the main barrier to entry for many airlines.
Many are wary of the side effects that could result from the production of biofuels. Some argue that using plants as a source of fuel will put an even greater strain on the world’s freshwater supply. Mr. Bohm, of the World Wide Fund For Nature in Hong Kong, states that “Moving to biofuels is a step in the right direction, but the process has to be managed very carefully.”