“Big bird with green wings” was the headline in last Sunday’s business section of the Times. Fantastic news for air travellers, as long as you don’t read the small print.
The article, which appears to recreate a Boeing press release gives a different picture. It starts off by saying “Boeing’s 747-8 was the first commercial airliner to fly across the Atlantic powered on all four engines by biofuel produced from the Carmelina plant”. The truth is somewhat different. A new 747-8 has flown the Atlantic using a 15-85 mix of biofuel and conventional jet fuel. Again the headline states that “Boeing may soon win official approval for a 50-50 blend”; it’s not there yet. The article then goes on to describe what might happen in the future with words like ‘could’ and ‘Morgan reckons’.
The fact that bio-fuels require significant energy input in their production, which means the results are sometimes marginal in terms of carbon emissions reduction is only recognised towards the end of the article with the statement that “biofuels could achieve a 50% to 80% reduction in the carbon footprint”. So the airlines industry is still going to be a major emitter even in the best case. I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be carrying out the research, but please don’t announce you’re green when you’re 85% carbon.
If a plane doesn’t fly then the emissions are reduced by 100%. So a little less encouragement to fly and a few less flights would have a much greater effect now– no ‘could’, no ‘reckons’, no greenwash.