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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

Triple Bottom Tuesday >>> Want Sustainability? Goodbye Cheap Air Travel

Picture Credit: Leio Mclaren

Ever since Wilbur and Orville Wright created the first functioning flights in 1903, the industry has ballooned at an exponential rate to make commercial flight into a possibility. Today, there is over 115,000 flights taken every day and over 42 million flights taken annually to get passengers to destinations all over the world.

However, to keep that many planes in the sky requires a tremendous amount of fossil fuel to power their engines, and the combustion of these fossil fuels releases a large amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which speeds up global warming. The aviation industry accounts for more than 2.5% of all CO2 emissions worldwide.

It is estimated that by 2038, the number of air passengers will double, and this will mean the emissions released into the atmosphere by airplanes will increase substantially as well. Due to this, the International Air Transport Association has set a target for all airlines to reduce their emissions by 50% by 2050. Daisy Maugouber, an analyst at Bloomberg comments, “The marine sector, for example, or aviation have all committed to reduce their carbon emissions. And biofuels will play a key role for those industries which have limited other alternatives”.

Picture Credit: Leonardo Yip

The aviation industry is slowly starting to turn to a biofuel called SAF (sustainable alternative fuel). Biofuels are fuels which are derived from biological materials like trees, agricultural waste, crops or even grass. Since electric or even hybrid commercial planes are yet to be developed, SAF is the next best alternative to try and reduce emissions as much as possible. Daisy Maugouber comments, “Biofuels contain a lot fewer pollutants in their chemical structure and therefore they burn cleaner, and because plants absorb the CO2 when they are growing, this offsets the carbon that is emitted when they are burned”.

However, SAF doesn’t come cheap, and the adoption of this fuel will also come with its consequences. Airfare is likely to become more expensive. Air France and KLM have already had to increase their ticket prices to help fund the use of SAF, some ticket prices increased by as much as 12 Euros.

Even though biofuels are currently expensive, the continued investment in these types of sustainable fuels will drive costs lower and bring emission levels down as well. One of the largest biofuels producing companies in the world, Neste, is planning on increasing its capacity and producing over one million tons of sustainable aviation fuel by 2022.

January 11th 2022 | 7:25 PM

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