North American airlines urged to steer clear of highly polluting new fuel types
Tar sand extraction sites in Canada's Boreal forest (photo: NRDC)
Fri 11 Jan 2008 – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US-based environmental organization of scientists, lawyers and specialists, has urged 15 major US and Canadian airlines, as well as The Boeing Company, to publicly oppose the use of jet fuel made from highly polluting sources such as liquefied coal, oil shale and so called ‘tar sands’. It also called on them to join a campaign seeking increased investment in cleaner aviation fuels.
“The aviation industry is under tremendous pressure to cut emissions and reduce their fuel bills. Using tar sands, coal and shale to make fuels won’t help. In fact, it would be a giant step backward,” said Liz Barratt-Brown, NRDC Senior Attorney. “There are better, safer, cleaner solutions that cost less and won’t pollute the friendly skies. We want to work with them to make it happen.”
According to NRDC, production of oil from these controversial sources generates between two and five times the heat-trapping global warming pollution compared with producing conventional oil. Rapid expansion in the extraction and refining of fuels from Canada’s tar sands is generating strong opposition in a growing number of local communities in the US and Canada, it says.
NRDC is specifically targeting United Airlines and American Airlines, which are supporting the increase in availability of fuels from the Canadian tar sands. These and other airlines are already refuelling on tar sands jet fuel in the Midwest and Rockies regions.
Thousands of acres of pristine Boreal forest in Canada, maintains NRDC, have been destroyed by the tar sands extraction and large parts of the US West are targeted for production of oil from shale and coal. NRDC is asking airlines instead to invest in the development of cleaner, renewable fuel sources such as biofuels and algae, and to make improvements in efficiency.
“The airlines can help cut global warming pollution and save critical wilderness areas like Canada’s Boreal forest,” said Susan Lefkowitz, Director of NRDC’s Canadian programme. “US consumers are becoming more aware about the harm that airline travel does to our North American waters and lands.”
Other airlines asked to take the ‘Cool Fuels’ pledge are Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, US Airways, UPS and WestJet Airlines. NRDC has also invited Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways, a leading advocate of biofuel development, to take part in the campaign.