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Biofuel should be prioritised for aircraft

Virgin Atlantic welcomes Policy Exchange’s findings about biofuel

Virgin Atlantic, which pioneered the use of biofuel in aviation, welcomed the findings of the UK think tank, Policy Exchange, which found that sustainable biofuels can reduce emissions in the aviation industry. Virgin Atlantic became the first airline in the world to fly biofuel on a commercial  aircraft, between London Heathrow and Amsterdam in February 2008.

Policy Exchange concluded that: “Aviation is a fundamental part of the global economy and…..people throughout the world want to travel. As a result, we must promote methods that can reduce emissions from those flights that do take place.”

Virgin Atlantic’s Director of Corporate Responsibility and Government Affairs, Jill Brady, commented: “We welcome the Policy Exchange’s call for prioritising the use of sustainable biofuels by the aviation industry. Biofuels for aviation are in their infancy and so we are in a unique position to ensure that this new fuel supply chain evolves sustainably from the outset. The right biofuels have the potential to substantially reduce aviation emissions in the medium to long-term.”

Virgin Atlantic is a founding member of the Aviation Global Deal Group, which is calling for a global emissions trading scheme to be put in place by governments attending the Copenhagen Summit in December. Revenues from the scheme would be used to for climate change projects, including clean energy solutions. A global scheme would also incentivise the use of lower-carbon fuels by the sector, negating the need for national or regional targets,  The airline is also a founder member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) which commits members to supporting the development of fuels which deliver a lower life-cycle carbon footprint. 

The Policy Exchange also found that “in the UK, we have seen that the Air Passenger Duty is an ineffective carbon abatement instrument and is de facto a revenue raising measure for HM Government.” Virgin Atlantic totally agrees with this finding and has recently launched a campaign against the planned increases in APD in November 2009 and November 2010. The tax is unjust and out of control. All of Virgin Atlantic’s e-tickets now carry anti-APD messaging.

Virgin Atlantic disagrees with one section of Policy Exchange’s report which finds that “an EU Sustainable Bio-Jet Blending Mandate should be introduced from 2020. This Mandate would set out clearly and credibly that a rising proportion of jet fuel must come from or be blended with sustainable bio-jet fuels.” In order to optimize life-cycle carbon savings, Virgin Atlantic believes that biofuels should be used in aircraft at the point of production, for example on flights from Africa to the UK, and not simply shipped in to the EU to power flights back to where they were cultivated.

Virgin Atlantic is working closely with Boeing, among other companies, on ensuring second and third generation biofuels are sustainable, technically feasible and safe.

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