I wrote the other day in a Forbes.com piece about a bit of a feud between American Airlines and United over the best approach to the environment, the CEO of American calling out United’s biofuel efforts as being largely meaningless compared to American’s investment of newer, more modern and fuel efficient aircraft.
I reviewed a recording of comments by American’s CEO to employees on the subject of what they’re doing to be more environmentally conscious,
I get annoyed by things like you read from United saying they’re the most environmentally conscious. They’re not. They’re flying around average airplanes that are 15 years old. We’re flying around an average fleet that’s 9 years old.
We’re much more environmentally friendly than United Airlines right now because we’ve invested in more fuel efficient aircraft.. They say that about some effort they’re doing with biofuels, so again good for them, not saying they shouldn’t do that. But having one airplane flying around with some biofuel testing as opposed to having a fleet of 1500 airplanes, 500 new airplanes while they’re flying 500 old airplanes around. We’re doing much better things for the environment than they are.
Reader comments that American Airlines was actually reducing CO2 emissions by cancelling more flights than anyone else, it turns out there is real evidence for Parker’s position. Current biofuel technology is simply too resource-intensive to be useful.
[M]any environmentalists are dismissive of biofuels as a long-term solution, particularly because a growing world population will need more food. To limit global warming to a 1.5C increase in temperature would require so much biofuel that it would take up to 7m square kilometres of arable land — roughly the size of Australia — to produce that much feedstock, according to a recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“If you were to replace all today’s aviation fuel with biofuel, with first-generation biofuel, it would be at the expense of 2,100 calories per person per day for everyone on the planet,” says Prof Berners-Lee. “It would take almost all of humankind’s calorific requirements . . . So that is absolutely not a solution.”
Biofuels, then, just aren’t a practical way for airlines to reduce their emissions at this point.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)