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Want to fly climate-friendly? It takes time and costs more

When it comes to flying, going green can be more expensive. And the strategy will take some time to succeed.

Sustainability was a hot topic. This week at the Paris Air Show, the world’s largest event for the aviation industry facing increasing pressure to reduce climate change greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft.

Despite the huge number of orders at the exhibition, It got an emissions reduction spin. Airlines and manufacturers have said the new planes will be more fuel efficient than the planes they replace.

However, most airplanes will burn conventional kerosene-based jet fuel. Startups are working hard on power aircraft.But they won’t catch up as quickly as electric cars.

“If you don’t have to lift a heavy battery off the ground, it’s much easier to load it into a vehicle,” said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University.

In other words, sustainable aviation fuel has become the industry’s best hope for achieving its zero-emissions promise. Aviation emits 2-3% of global carbon emissions, but its share is expected to increase as travel increases and other industries become greener.

However, sustainable fuels make up only 0.1% of total jet fuel.. SAFs made from sources such as used cooking oil and plant waste can be blended with conventional jet fuel, but are much more expensive.

“Suppliers will be able to set the price,” American Airlines vice president Molly Wilkinson told the airshow. “And we’re afraid at that point that price will eventually trickle down to passengers as ticket prices in some form.”

With such limited supply, critics say airlines are making overly ambitious promises and exaggerating how quickly they can increase SAF use. The industry is even skeptical. Nearly one-third of aviation sustainability leaders in a GE Aerospace survey doubt the industry can achieve its net-zero goal. by 2050.

Delta Airlines sued. in US federal court by critics who say the airline is falsely billed as the world’s first carbon-neutral airline and that Delta’s claims are largely based on bogus carbon offsets. The Atlanta-based airline said the allegations had “no legal merit.”

Across the Atlantic, a consumer group known by the French acronym BEUC, filed a complaint with the European Commission this week accusing 17 airlines of greenwashing..

The group said airlines are misleading consumers and violating rules against unfair commercial practices by encouraging customers to pay extra to fund SAF development and offset future carbon emissions. created by flight.

In one case, the group’s researchers found that Air France charges up to 138 euros ($150) for the green option.

“Sustainable aviation fuels are indeed the greatest technological potential to decarbonize the aviation sector, but the main problem is that they are unavailable,” said Dimitri Vergne, senior policy officer at BEUC.

Vergne added, “We know that it won’t be available in large quantities and won’t be a major source of fuel for aircraft before the end of the next decade.”

Producers say SAF reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% over its lifecycle compared to regular jet fuel.

Airlines have been talking about going green. for years. They’ve been rattled by the rise of “flight shaming,” a movement that encourages people to seek less polluting transportation or cut back on travel altogether.

The issue became urgent this year as European Union negotiators agreed to new rules requiring airlines to use more sustainable fuels. It starts in 2025 and increases rapidly in subsequent years.

America is pushing incentives instead of mandates.

A bill signed by President Joe Biden last year would provide tax breaks for the development of cleaner jet fuel., but one of the credits expires after 2 years. American Airlines executive Wilkinson said it was too short to attract sustainable fuel producers and the credit would need to be extended for more than 10 years.

The international air transport association, an air trade group, estimates that SAF could contribute 65% of the emissions reductions needed for the industry to meet its net-zero target by 2050.

However, few flights are powered by SAF due to limited supply and infrastructure.

Right before the opening of the Paris Air ShowPresident Emmanuel Macron announced that France would contribute 200 million euros ($218 million) to a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) plant to create SAF.

A number of airlines have touted investments in SAF producers, such as World Energy, which has a plant in Paramount, California, and Neste in Finland.

United Airlines plans to triple its SAF use this year to 10 million gallons, but last year it used 3.6 billion gallons of fuel.

Some see sustainable fuels as a bridge to cleaner technologies, including larger electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft.. However, a fantastic leap forward in battery technology is needed to have enough power to run large electric airplanes.

Hydrogen must be cooled and stored somewhere. It cannot be transported on today’s airplane wings like jet fuel.

“Hydrogen sounds like a great idea. The problem is, the more you look into the details, the more you realize that it’s an engineering problem as well as an economic problem,” said Richard Aboulafia of AeroDynamic Advisory, an aerospace consulting firm, at the Paris Air Show. “It’s within the realm of possibility (but) not for the next few decades.”


Koenig reported from Dallas. Contributed by AP reporters Jade Le Deley and Tristan Werkmeister of Le Bourget, France, and Kelvin Chan of Toronto.

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