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Aviation biofuels: how much can they deliver?

Wide fluctuations in the price of oil and increasing pressure on the aviation industry to take its carbon emissions seriously have stimulated plenty of interest in finding a plant-based fuel for aircraft. On 30th December 2008 Air New Zealand, the latest airline to operate a biofuel test flight, flew an empty Boeing 747-400 with a blend of jatropha and kerosene in one of the aircraft’s four engines. Japan Airways and US airline Continental both have trials planned for this month.

But is this all hype from an industry desperate to cover its back in terms of its climate damage, or could aviation biofuel really deliver environmental benefits? Will it be possible to develop a biofuel that is safe, clean and commercially viable, without competing with agricultural production for land and other environmental resources?

Bio-fuelled or bio-fooled, a new article by AEF board member Jeff Gazzard, tackles these questions head on. It is published in the current edition of Aviation and the Environment, available from http://tiny.cc/cOvDN .