Aviation Going Green, But At What Cost?

5 min read

We have stated many times in this newsletter series that the aviation industry is going green, or at least trying to do so. We’ve also stated that the impetus for sustainable aviation fuels is merely driven by governments around the world and the E.S.G. movement.

One thing we have not talked a lot about in this newsletter series regarding sustainable aviation fuels is the costs associated with this move. We have undoubtedly talked about the lack of heavy investments as investors believe that there are better returns in other areas within aviation and the rest of the economy, however, we’ve not delved into the costs.

We are seeing where people are more open to talking about the high cost associated with green aviation. Maybe this is a way to get more investors involved, or simply to highlight the fact that many of the goals that are laid out for sustainable aviation fuel and net zero emissions by 2050 are unrealistic.

On Aviation™ Note: It is somewhat cost-prohibitive to go completely green as much of the mandates around the globe are expecting of aviation. It is also at this time not a very good investment and therefore we are seeing a slowing in investments from the private sector.

There are also spinoff effects that must be taken into consideration. For example, if we are using more corn for fuel rather than feedstock or human consumption, we can expect that the more easy to produce fuel corn will become more viable and more of that will be produced than the other kinds. This could lead to further shortages in corn for food at worst, and increased price in corn overall at best, adding to the high cost of food and food shortages.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned, it is always wonderful for the aviation industry to innovate. However, we must innovate realistically and not based on any ill-conceived notion of what is truly possible within a specific time frame.

In this digest, we share some stories and articles on what’s been happening with sustainable aviation as it relates to the cost associated with it. They should provide the reader with some insights as to why sustainable and green aviation developments have been so slow in coming.

Too Expensive, Too Scarce: Doubt Sets in On Green Aviation Fuel

As the aviation industry looks to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2050, sustainable aviation fuel has emerged as the magic potion to propel airlines and manufacturers into that era.

But initial enthusiasm about the fuel has given way to a more realistic, if not downright pessimistic, view on the industry’s ambitious target. SAF is still scarce and therefore expensive. Generating the required quantities of alternative fuel would require huge areas of land and natural resources. And footing the bill for the switch would most likely fall to the flying public as the airline industry points to its razor-thin profit margins.

By Kate Duffy and Clara Hernanz Lizarraga | Bloomberg

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Why You May Start Seeing ‘Green’ Airfares On Your Favorite International Airlines

It’s no secret that air travel is a major contributor to global carbon emissions, but are these new “green” airfares that Lufthansa and other airlines are implementing a step towards more sustainable tourism? Or should we be skeptical? What exactly are green airfares, and what impact do they have on global travel? It’s possible these airfares are actually taking steps to improve the environmental impact from tourism.

Eco-trailblazers Lufthansa Airlines say its “Green Fares” are intended to help offset carbon emissions by having passengers purchase one of these special fare classes: Economy Green and Business Green. However, it’s important to note that these tickets don’t actively reduce flight emissions. Instead, these fares fund “carbon offsets.” As Lufthansa explains it, 20% of “flight-related” carbon emissions are offset through the use of sustainable aviation fuel, and the other 80% of the emissions are offset through funding of climate protection projects.

While the funding of sustainable aviation fuel might be beneficial, the other 80% are essentially carbon offsets. These are pretty controversial at best, so the true environmental impact of these green fares is still worth questioning.

By  Lexi Kassler | Explore

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IATA head says price of sustainable fuel likely to remain high

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is likely to stay more expensive than kerosene even when large-scale production kicks in and the cost won’t deter airlines from their carbon emission targets, International Air Transport Association (IATA) head Willie Walsh said.

IATA previously estimated that SAF could contribute around 65% of the reduction in emissions needed by aviation to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. “I truly believe SAF will always be priced at a premium to kerosene,” Walsh told a conference in Lisbon.

“I believe the industry is ready to embrace that. The industry recognises the problem, is doing everything it can to address it and we will achieve the targets because…there isn’t an option here.”

He expected the price of SAF to come down when deliveries reach a large scale, compared to “tiny volumes” now, though it will remain at a premium to kerosene.

By Reuters

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Why Green Air Travel Will Save US Corn Farmers From Extinction

For US corn farmers, the rise of green jet fuel is their best hope of staving off an existential threat.

With battery-powered cars poised to slash gasoline demand by 2040, corn-ethanol makers need to find new markets, and fast. After all, roughly 40% of the country’s output of the grain is used to make the biofuel that’s blended into gasoline.

That’s why some producers are betting on a nascent technology that promises to use ethanol to power planes.

“It’s a lifeline,” said Patrick Gruber, chief executive officer of renewable fuels producer Gevo Inc., which is building an $850 million plant to make green jet fuel from corn. “It creates an outlet for ethanol and it’s actually huge.”

The search for new uses for ethanol represents a pivot for an industry that has been powered by the force of the US government for almost half a century. Even with disputed environmental credentials, the federal government has subsidized corn ethanol as a way to curb tailpipe emissions and promote energy security.

By Kim Chipman and Tarso Veloso | Irish Independent

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in the content shared in this digest are for informational purposes only, are solely those of the original content creators, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of On Aviation™ or its affiliates.

Thank you for reading this week’s On Aviation™ digest. Do you believe the goals laid out by sustainable aviation fuel and green aviation are achievable? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Remember to check out our On Aviation™ Podcast and continue the conversation on our Twitter and Instagram.

Orlando – On Aviation™

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