German bio-flights

Last Friday, July 15 2011, Lufthansa became the first airline to run a regular service using partly bio-fuel mixed with normal aviation fuel. Might Geneva and Swiss airlines do the same?

It was stated that the Lufthansa 11h15 flight from Hamburg to Frankfurt (LH013) would be the start of flights designed to evaluate bio-fuels. This would be the first of a six-month series of regular flights between the two German cities, and would be used to test out various aspects of such flights.

In this particular case, one of the two engines of the Airbus A321 will use a half and half mixture of bio-fuel and normal aviation kerosene fuel, whilst the other will run on normal aviation fuel. This should allow Lufthansa to evaluate the engine performance comparison for completely standard and identical jet engines.

The fuel has been sold to Lufthansa by the company Neste Oil, and is sold by the name NExBTL. Lufthansa is believed to have bought 800 tons of the product, which it is storing in Hamburg. The price has not been disclosed, though it is probably correct to assume that it is currently more expensive than normal aviation fuel.

Environmental associations are not yet convinced about the use of bio-fuels in general. The worry is that they may be grown on land which could alternatively be used for normal food crops. One particular association, Friends of the Earth, condemned this particular Lufthansa series, saying that

“Biofuels exacerbate poverty and hunger, drive land grabbing and deforestation, push up food prices, and make climate change worse.”

A recent article in the British newspaper The Guardian recently illustrated this dilemma with a report on people in Kenya who were evicted  from their land in order to make way for water-thirsty bio-fuel crops. This is particularly disturbing given the current desperate drought in Africa, including parts of Kenya. To help the countries and people concerned, the Swiss Solidarity association, known also as the Chaine du Bonheur, is currently appealing for donations: I would encourage everyone to consider making a donation.

As I have said in previous blogs, there are projects to use bio-fuels not requiring crops to be grown. In this particular case, it has not been revealed what was the origin and method of production of the bio-fuel manufactured by Neste Oil.

If and when Geneva Airport plans to store  bio-fuels and accomodate flights partly or wholly using bio-fuels in the jet engines, I would hope that their desire to be seen as environment-friendly will include the requirement to indicate the origin of the fuels and to insist that their production be environment-friendly.

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