Can renewable jet fuels help airlines dodge EU aviation “carbon” charge coming in 2012?

I already posted on L.A.-based Rentech’s plans to build a $500-million jet fuel biorefinery four hours north of Sault St. Marie, Ontario, using residual crown timber. My latest Clean Break column looks at that project in more detail and against the backdrop of a coming European Union aviation “carbon” tax that will hit all airlines flying into the EU on Jan. 1, 2012.

Also, I had a chance to attend a panel at the BIO World Congress conference in Toronto this week on the challenges of producing renewable jet fuel. The panellists all agreed that producing low-carbon jet fuel from algae, jatropha, camelina and wood was not only technically doable but could be done economically. The potential problem, as one panellist pointed out, is that producers may opt first to make higher value products, such as green chemicals and nutriceuticals, which can fetch a much higher price per litre and, by association, a higher profit. In other words, we can make the green jet fuel, but will we use it as jet fuel?

So far, that’s Rentech’s intention — but will it change its mind? Either way, from a climate perspective, the end product will still presumably displace petroleum-based feedstocks, so it would seem all good in the end.

2 thoughts on “Can renewable jet fuels help airlines dodge EU aviation “carbon” charge coming in 2012?”

  1. As someone who stands to be hit hard by the aviation carbon tax, I’m 100% for it. I’ve done a fair bit to reduce my footprint, and have been pretty successful, but flying is a glaring exception. And I can’t justify it in any way but that it’s a personal, lifestyle choice that I indulge in (I don’t consider “but everybody else is doing it” a justification.) So it’s completely fair that people like me should pay a little extra for my indulgence. And if it incentivises a lower-carbon means of travel, even better.

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