The report above outlining the Qantas £200m biojet plant proposal needs a bit more analysis to enable readers to determine where on the “greenwash/breakthrough” spectrum this announcement should be positioned.
Qantas and its partner, Solena, are investigating constructing a waste-to-jet biofuel plant in Australia but we have no idea, as yet, what this might mean in terms of reducing CO2 emissions from Qantas flights. If this Australian scheme proceeds, it could well mirror the proposed (and probably identical) British Airways/Solena plant, said to be opening in 2014 somewhere in East London, to turn 500,000 tonnes of London's food and biomass waste into jet fuel annually.
The East London plant could produce about 2% of BA's Heathrow fuel needs, according to the airline. BA's latest reported CO2 emissions from their global flight operations were 17,714,897 million tonnes in 2008 – being generous, and also assuming 100% carbon offset from this particular biofuel, BA's emissions would perhaps therefore be 2%/354,300 tonnes less per annum when and if this plant is up and running.
Qantas reports its CO2 emissions as about 12,500,000 tonnes in 2009, so assuming a similar waste-to-jet biofuel production quantity in Australia, Qantas might be aiming for a 2.84% reduction in its emissions.
We understand that British Airways have made no financial investment in the proposed East London plant at all, so it cannot be described as a joint venture – company sources tell us that the airline has simply undertaken, via an exchange of letters, that if Solena can produce jet fuel that's safe, meets industry standards and is priced competitively against everyday petroleum-based kerosene, then BA will consider buying it.
It's clear that both airlines would like us to believe they can slash carbon emissions. Given the recovery in the airline industry underway right now coupled with future growth projections it's highly likely that overall CO2 emissions at both British Airways and Qantas will continue to increase. Grandiose PR-led statements appearing to knock a couple of percentage points off rising CO2 emissions are more to do with manufacturing consent for unrestrained fossil-fuel powered growth than actually combating climate change, I'm afraid.
Aviation Environment Federation, London