WASHINGTON (September 25, 2008) – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has joined Boeing (NYSE:BA), some of the world’s leading airlines, and Honeywell’s UOP, a refining technology developer to establish a group that will accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable new aviation fuels.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will also join NRDC in the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group to help commercial aviation become the first global transportation sector to voluntarily drive verifiable sustainability practices into its fuel supply chain.
“This taskforce comes at just the right time to help airlines cut costs and decrease their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Liz Barratt-Brown, senior attorney at NRDC. “If done right, sustainable biofuels could lower the airlines' carbon footprint at a time when all industries need to be moving away from fuels with higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, especially high carbon tar sands and liquid coal.”
The group’s charter is to enable the commercial use of renewable fuel sources that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while lessening commercial aviation’s exposure to oil price volatility and dependence on fossil fuels. Airlines supporting the sustainable fuels initiative include Air France, Air New Zealand, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Cargolux, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS and Virgin Atlantic Airways. Collectively, they account for approximately 15 percent of commercial jet fuel use.
“We welcome the aviation sector's will to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and appreciate their efforts to ensure the sustainability of their biofuels sourcing,” says Jean-Philippe Denruyter, WWF Global Bioenergy Coordinator and Steering Board Member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. “By teaming up with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, the aviation sector can build on an existing solid multi-stakeholder process that will reinforce this initiative.”
All group members subscribe to a sustainability pledge (http://docs.nrdc.org/globalwarming/glo_08092501a.pdf
) stipulating that any sustainable biofuel must perform as well as, or better than, kerosene-based fuel, but with a smaller carbon lifecycle. The user’s group pledged to consider only renewable fuel sources that minimize biodiversity impacts: fuels that require minimal land, water and energy to produce, and that don’t compete with food or fresh water resources. In addition, cultivation and harvest of plant stocks must provide socioeconomic value to the local communities.
The group has announced two initial sustainability research projects. Assistant Professor Rob Bailis of Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, through funding provided by Boeing, will conduct the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive sustainability assessment of jatropha curcas, to include lifecycle CO2 emissions and the socio-economic impacts to farmers in developing nations. Similarly, NRDC will conduct a comprehensive assessment of algae to ensure it meets the group’s stringent sustainability criteria.
Both species may potentially become part of a portfolio of biomass-based renewable fuel solutions that, through advanced fuel processing methodologies developed by energy sector leaders such as UOP, can help aviation diversify its fuel supply.