IATA Director General Tony Tyler has called on governments to implement policies that encourage research, investment and incentives to help develop and commercialise a sustainable aviation biofuel industry. With the approval of such fuels now in place and airlines using them in commercial operations, he said they had the potential to become a game-changer in cutting aviation’s carbon footprint, but they were still expensive and supply was limited. “I am under no illusions that this will be an easy process,” he added in a speech to the IATA Fuel Forum in Paris. “But there is no shortage of commitment from the industry.” Meanwhile, next week’s annual meeting of the industry-led Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) promises to be the biggest yet with strong participation from fuel companies, buyers and US government agencies and states.
According to IATA, the industry’s fuel bill this year is expected to be $176 billion, representing 30% of operating costs, rising to an expected $201 billion (32% of costs) in 2012, despite a projected fall in the price of oil from $110 to $100 per barrel. “Oil at less than $100 has somehow come to look cheap,” noted Tyler.
“Oil is a scarce resource. The long-term price is upward – with volatility as a result of political and economic uncertainty,” he said. “While sustainable biofuels have the potential to help us in our environmental efforts, current costs are prohibitive.”
Tyler said that five years ago there was no alternative to jet fuel but progress on sustainable biofuels had been “a story of revolutionary proportions”, with an impressive acceleration in new supply projects over the last 12 months.
“There is an opportunity for both our traditional suppliers and new entrants to engage in this exciting development,” he told delegates. “We need all to come on board, work together and speak with a common voice. That is the way to convince governments to provide the right policies to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel industry.”
He outlined six steps that governments should take:
Foster research into new feedstock sources and refining processes;
De-risk public and private investments in aviation biofuels;
Provide incentives for airlines to use biofuels from an early stage;
Encourage stakeholders to commit to robust international sustainability criteria;
Make the most of local green growth opportunities; and
Encourage coalitions encompassing all parts of the supply chain.
Tyler said airlines were committed to using sustainable biofuels as they would be critical to achieving carbon neutral growth and emissions reduction targets. “Combined, these are the industry’s long-term licence to grow. So, to secure our future, we need to make sustainable biofuels work commercially.”
In a subsequent speech to the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in Morocco, Tyler said the necessary fiscal and legal frameworks put in place by governments to support the development of a successful sustainable aviation biofuels industry would also create jobs in the green economy.
“There is huge potential for Africa to develop local biofuels industries that could spread economic opportunity even in the most remote corner of the continent. And we should be lobbying governments strongly to help make that a reality,” he said.
According to Richard Altman, Executive Director of CAAFI, the cross-industry initiative that is supported by the Federal Aviation Administration, next week’s General Meeting starting on November 30 “is shaping up brilliantly”, he told GreenAir Online.
“We have over 50 fuel/feedstock companies, 25 separate federal offices and nearly 15 major buyers among the 300 invited guests – in short, the typically diverse supply chain approach from ground to end user we are seeking. Our goal is to set our direction for the next 12 to 24 months.
“In a global environment where many – in the US and Europe – seem incapable of getting much done at the public level, through our private/public partnership we are accelerating and succeeding to build a future.”
International participation in the event has increased with representation from Australia and Brazil as well from Europe. A new addition this year is a companion exhibition with some 30 entities ranging from research organisations through to biofuel technology companies.