In light of recent studies being released, concern has risen in the travel industry due to the potentially dangerous risks of current sustainable fuel plans within the aviation sector. In a race against climate change to transition from traditional, environmentally harmful fuels to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), the industry has been warned that plans could be doing more harm than good.
Over the past few years, Europe has been taking strides to transition to the use of SAFs. With many avenues of research funded across the continent, biofuels have been found the most sustainable in our current climate. One of the most common solutions within and outside of the aviation industry has been biowastes such as cooking oil and animal fats. However, the increased use of animal fasts as sustainable fuel has been put into question.
According to Transport and Environment (T&E), the use of animal fats has become “increasingly unsustainable”. Due to the sheer magnitude of animal fats demanded by a large industry like aviation, several studies have found this method could do a lot of damage in coming years.
A T&E study was conducted and found that the use of animal fats as sustainable fuels has doubled in the past decade. The use of these biodiesels is 40 times higher than in 2006 and is looking to be tripled by 2030. Though the increased conversion to biofuels on its own could be seen as a positive development, T&E has warned that there simply won’t be enough biowaste produced by industrial meat farming (in itself, an environmental downfall) to sustain the demand.
It was found in the study that in order to fuel just one flight from Paris to New York with sustainable fuels, the fat from almost 9,000 pigs would be required. T&E are asking for a greater level of transparency from large fuel sectors concerning how SAFs are produced and the impact that has on the rest of the world.
Other sustainable fuel replacements were also found wanting. T&E stated that the current use of biofuels in the aviation sector can only be sustained by depriving other sectors of the same product, leading back to the use of alternatives like palm oil.
“Scaling up industrial meat farming is neither doable nor desirable,” the organisation clarified. With the production of industrial meat already causing its own issues in terms of environmental impact.
Barbara Smailagic, T&E’s biofuels expert, also commented and said, “It turns out pigs will fly. For years we’ve been burning animal fats in cars without drivers knowing.
“Now they will be fuelling your next flight. But that can’t be sustained without depriving other sectors, which will in turn likely switch to damaging alternatives like palm oil. We need greater transparency so that consumers know what is going into their tanks and fuelling their flights.
“The competing uses for animal fats lay bare the challenge of scaling up waste biofuel production. Animal fats don’t grow on trees. Pet food suppliers, for example, will now have to reduce the sustainability of their products by using palm oil instead.
“And as we have seen with used cooking oil, this also increases the risk of fraud. The potential mislabelling of animal fats suggests fraud could be taking place on an industrial scale.”
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