The use of plant-based fuels for flights, backed by the EU, could contribute to higher food prices and increased greenhouse gas emissions
Europe’s biggest airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa and KLM have announced a major biofuels drive despite UN calls to limit biofuel growth.
A glitzy gathering of the elite of Europe’s airline industry in Paris this week saw the launch of a major PR offensive to highlight the move towards replacing fossil fuels with biofuels- liquid fuels made from crops plants such as oil palm and jatropha.
The EU has set targets for 10 per cent of transport fuels to come from renewable sources – as part of that it is now pushing for the aviation sector to use two million tonnes of biofuel, mostly oil palm, each year by 2020.
However, environmental groups believe aviation’s demand for biofuels will increase the expansion of oil palm in the tropics, leading to destruction of rainforest in countries like Indonesia and Cameroon. While the UN says paying for the production of crops like oil palm or jatropha for biofuels removes the availability of land for food crops and puts increasing pressure on food prices.
Biofuel production will need to increase dramatically to meet the two million tonnes target, which is the equivalent of filling the petrol tanks of 40 million cars. Campaigners say an area the size of Belgium will be needed to grow enough plants to meet this demand.