First flight using biofuel takes to the air

Tuesday 19th Jul 2011 by theWeather Club

Air travel is one of the bogey men in the climate change debate, pouring thousands of tonnes of CO2 and particulate matter into atmosphere as people fly around the world. It has always been assumed that due to the nature and quantities of the fuel used, the only approaches to improving matters were to improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft, or simply take fewer flights. Now the German airline Lufthansa has opened a new – and controversial – avenue. An Airbus A321 has completed a scheduled flight from Hamburg to Frankfurt using a 50-50 mix of conventional fuel and biofuel. The first time this has been done.

It is the start of a trial which will last six months entailing 1,200 flights in total. If successful, use of the biofuel mix – using biosynthetic kerosene – will be rolled out to some of the airlines other routes. According to Lufthansa the new fuel will reduce carbon emissions by 1,500 tonnes over the life of the programme. Christoph Franz, Lufthansa's chief executive said, "Lufthansa is the first airline worldwide to use biofuel in scheduled daily flight operations. We are thus continuing to steadily implement our proven and successful strategy for sustainability." Going on to tackle one of the most controversial aspects of biofuels Franz insisted that the trial did not entail using material which could otherwise be used for food production.

Environmental lobby groups have been sceptical of the programme, arguing that aviation's use of biofuels is less environmentally friendly than the aviation industry says. Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said. "Lufthansa is painting itself green with biofuels – but these flights are anything but environmentally friendly. Biofuels exacerbate poverty and hunger, drive land grabbing and deforestation, push up food prices, and make climate change worse." He continued. "Short-haul flights from Hamburg to Frankfurt, bio-fuelled or not, can never be green. Lufthansa's passengers, and the climate, would be better off catching the train."