Use of jet biofuels by airlines should be mandated in the EU from 2020, says UK think tank report
Thu 23 July 2009 – A new report, entitled ‘Greener skies thinking’, by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange recommends that in order to meet 2050 emissions targets there must be a wide-scale deployment of sustainable bio-jet fuels. It calls for the setting of achievable and enforceable targets for replacing standard kerosene jet fuel with bio-jet fuel from 2020 through the implementation of an EU-wide Sustainable Bio-jet Fuel Blending Mandate. The mandate would see the proportion of bio-derived blended jet fuel rise from 20% in 2020 to 80% in 2050. Aviation is currently excluded from the EU Renewable Energy Directive on biofuels.
The result of the mandate would be reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK and EU aviation sectors of 15% in 2020 and 60% in 2050 relative to current predictions, calculates Policy Exchange.
The report estimates the cumulative emission reductions of its proposals between 2020 and 2050 can be valued in 2009 prices at £37.41 billion ($61.8bn) in the UK and £305.45 billion ($504.6bn) across the EU.
“If left unchecked, emissions from aviation are set to account for up to a fifth of global GHG emissions by 2050,” said the author of the report and Head of Policy Exchange’s Energy & Environment Unit, Ben Caldecott.
“We know that the majority of people – 61%, according to a recent survey – don’t think the aviation sector is sufficiently concerned about the environment but, at the same time, we also know that lots of people still want to be able to appreciate the benefits of flying abroad.
“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.”
The report’s proposals suggest that bio-jet production costs could fall to around $80 per barrel by 2030 and to around $70 per barrel by 2050, comparing well with an average jet fuel price between 2000 and 2008 of $62.29 and the price peak of July 2008 when it reached $167.70 per barrel.
The report says there should also be increased support in the UK for companies conducting research and development into the production of sustainable bio-jet fuels. It believes the Government’s current R&D tax regime should be extended to companies which conduct research into sustainable bio-jet fuels in the UK, who should be allowed to claim an additional 40% of eligible R&D spend against their taxable profits. The introduction of this additional support would cost less than £5 million ($8m) per annum and, says the report, would make the UK one of the most supportive tax regimes for sustainable bio-jet fuel R&D in the world.
It also calls for investment in the methodologies and regulatory bodies needed to ensure that bio-jet fuels are produced sustainably and deliver dramatic life-cycle GHG emission reductions.
EU jet fuel consumption is currently around 50 million tonnes per year and could rise to nearly 80 million tonnes per year by 2050. To meet the demand in 2050 with bio-jet fuels would require an area of around 24,850 square kilometres, an area slightly larger than Wales, claims the report.
The report concludes that despite the potential of sustainable bio-jet fuels, “the current policy framework in the UK and EU is unable to deliver their deployment and commercialization. This is partly because current policies, principally the EU ETS and UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), do not support the investors and developers involved and fail to create the demand needed to enable commercialization. In fact, there are no specific policies within Europe that aim to promote the development and commercialization of sustainable bio-jet fuels. Given the contribution they could make to reducing emissions from aviation, this should change.”