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  • If you had come up with a catchy statement that summed up

  • this topic, what would it be?

  • Zero emissions aviation.

  • It's not pie in the sky, but it's definitely going

  • to be a long haul journey.

  • Aviation is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise.

  • Pre-pandemic, it accounted for about 2.4

  • per cent of total global emissions.

  • But many countries around the world

  • have decided they want to be net zero by 2050.

  • And that means that aviation has to work

  • hard and fast to get there.

  • By far the biggest factor when it comes to emissions

  • is how you power one of these through the air.

  • There's nothing more efficient or economical than jet fuel.

  • But fossil fuel emits carbon.

  • And by 2050 we're expecting 10bn passengers

  • to fly 20tn kilometres.

  • That's a lot of carbon.

  • There are alternatives being developed.

  • Electric aviation has caught lots of people's imagination.

  • The problem is simply that the batteries are still too heavy.

  • And that means that, frankly, you

  • can't pack the aircraft with very many passengers.

  • So when it comes to bigger aircraft and longer trips,

  • it's all about the fuel.

  • We have a range of options there.

  • First up, there's biofuels.

  • These are fuels that are made from feedstocks

  • that can range from plants to used cooking

  • oil, municipal waste, household waste.

  • Biofuels, like all sustainable fuels,

  • are two to four times the cost of jet fuel.

  • And in the wake of a pandemic that

  • has grounded the majority of the world's commercial aircraft,

  • airlines simply can't afford to pay that extra cost.

  • The second options are synthetic fuels, which are artificially

  • created to replicate kerosene.

  • Synthetic fuels are very new.

  • But they do exist.

  • KLM actually recently completed a flight using synthetic fuels.

  • But they are very expensive and very energy intensive.

  • One massive advantage of both biofuels and e-fuels

  • is that they can be just dropped straight into the tanks.

  • In fact, they're called drop-in fuels.

  • You don't have to change the aircraft.

  • You don't have to change the engines.

  • Minor adjustments, just tiny tweaks the engines.

  • You don't have to change the fuel supply system.

  • One thing to remember about these drop-in fuels

  • is that they do emit carbon when they're burned.

  • The advantage is that they only release the carbon

  • that they've already taken out of the atmosphere.

  • So they're what's called net zero, not true zero.

  • The only true zero option, at least

  • that we know about at the moment,

  • is hydrogen. It's got three times the energy

  • density of kerosene.

  • The problem is that its volume is four times bigger.

  • You will need tanks that are so big.

  • So like electric aviation, hydrogen

  • might be better suited to shorter flights.

  • But possibly the biggest obstacle

  • is that it would require trillions in investment.

  • Investment in new aircraft, in fuel storage systems,

  • in fuel distribution systems, and in production itself.

  • These sustainable aviation fuels will cost more.

  • Even the industry says it will be a very tough challenge

  • to get to net zero by 2050.

  • So we the passengers have a choice to make.

  • Either we fly less or we pay more.

If you had come up with a catchy statement that summed up

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Will zero emissions aviation ever take off? | Rethink Sustainability

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    洪子雯 posted on 2021/04/22
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