One of the first major industries to start selling climate-conscious products to its consumers may be one of the last to actually decarbonize.
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In 2021, nearly a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions came from the transportation sector, with aviation being a significant contributor. While the growing use of electric vehicles is helping to clean up ground transportation, today’s batteries can’t compete with fossil fuel-derived liquid hydrocarbons in terms of energy delivered per pound of weight — a major concern when it comes to flying. Meanwhile, based on projected growth in travel demand, consumption of jet fuel is projected to double between now and 2050 — the year by which the international aviation industry has pledged to be carbon neutral.
Recently I published an assessment of whether a reasonably sized international airport, not Heathrow, Chicago, or Changi, but Edmonton YEG’s smaller one, could power all future aviation energy requirements with its 120 MW solar farm. The answer was yes, and more. Of course, that was a thought exercise which had a bunch of bounding assumptions including the viability of long-range electric passenger jets by 2060–2070, so it wasn’t assuming that the solar farm would be powering all aviation out of YEG tomorrow or even in the next 30 years.
The US Air Force is investing $235 million in aerospace startup JetZero to build an unconventional plane that burns far less fuel than the aircraft that have long dominated the skies.
Our planet’s rising temperatures are making it harder for planes to take off at certain airports, presenting yet another challenge to civil aviation. And as heatwaves become more frequent, the problem could extend to more flights, forcing airlines to leave passengers on the ground.
Biofuels in aviation are emerging as a promising frontier in renewable energy, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. As the aviation industry continues to grow, the demand for cleaner and more efficient energy sources is becoming increasingly urgent. With global air traffic expected to double in the next two decades, the need for sustainable aviation fuels has never been more critical.
The aviation industry is at a critical juncture in its history. As the world grapples with the effects of climate change and strives to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the industry must adapt and evolve to align itself with these global priorities. One of the most promising avenues for achieving this alignment is through the adoption and widespread use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
The Asia-Pacific region is catching up with Europe and North America in the search for ways to reduce airlines’ combined carbon footprint, as going easier on the environment has become an overriding priority for the global aviation industry. Now Asian airlines will have an expanded biofuel refinery in Singapore that they can source from. Finnish biofuel producer Neste in May completed a 1.6 billion-euro ($1.7 billion) expansion of its biofuel refinery in the city-state and has started producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a biofuel made from used cooking oil and waste animal fat.
Aviation executives foresee “major changes” to how people travel as sustainability demands grow, one analyst says. “It is kind of a new era,” Callaway Climate Insights Founder and Editor-in-Chief David Callaway told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “Some are already saying it’s a bubble… But they’re riding high right now, and I think you will see them start to pay attention, because they know that their customers are paying attention. They know their customers care about this stuff.”
When it comes to flying, going green may cost you more. And it’s going to take a while for the strategy to take off. Sustainability was a hot topic this week at the Paris Air Show, the world’s largest event for the aviation industry, which faces increasing pressure to reduce the climate-changing greenhouse gases that aircraft spew.