EU Proposes to Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aircraft
January 4, 2007
The European Commission proposed in late December to include greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in its emissions trading scheme. According to the commission, the level of emissions from domestic flights is falling, but those from international air transport are on the rise, undermining the ability of the European Union (EU) to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. EU emissions from international air travel have increased 87 percent since 1990, according to the commission. To solve the problem, the commission proposes to give airlines annual, tradable emissions allowances based on their average level of greenhouse gas emissions from 2004 through 2006. Under the proposal, emissions from flights within the EU will have to meet the emissions cap starting in 2011, and all international flights arriving or departing from an EU airport will have to meet the emissions cap starting in 2012. The European Commission is the governing body for the EU. See the European Commission press release.
While the European Commission proposal focuses on efficiency improvements for the airlines, the ultimate solution may be the use of carbon-neutral biofuels for jet fuels. Although such fuels are not currently available, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded about $5 million to the University of North Dakota's Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) for the development of domestic biofuels for military jets. The EERC will focus on making jet fuel from a variety of vegetable oils and other renewable feedstocks, based on an EERC process to produce a biofuel for jets that is usable at extremely cold temperatures. An alternative pathway has been studied at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which has examined ways to derive jet fuel from oil-rich algae. See the EERC press release and the NREL fact sheet (PDF 598 KB). Download Adobe Reader.
The Defense Department is also examining the use of "Fischer-Tropsch" (F-T) fuels for its aircraft. F-T fuels are produced by passing hot carbon-rich gases through a catalyst. The hot gas can be natural gas, gasified coal, or gasified biomass, although coal is currently the fuel of choice. In mid-December, the U.S. Air Force successfully flew a B-52 bomber using F-T fuel from Syntroleum Corporation in all eight engines. See the press releases from the Air Force and Syntroleum.