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  • In 2019, the world's airlines carried 4.5 billion passengers

  • and released 920 million metric tons of CO2.

  • Then COVID hit.

  • Planes were grounded, borders were shut down, and the air temporarily cleared

  • giving us time to contemplate all of the ways we're impacting Earth.

  • So, when the airline industry does make its comeback, will it be able to do so in an environmentally friendly way?

  • Pre-COVID, aviation was one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions,

  • rising by about 2% every year since 2000.

  • If it were a country, global aviation would rank in the top 10 greenhouse gas emitters,

  • ahead of Brazil, Mexico, and the UK.

  • And with its fuel consumption expected to triple over the next 25 years,

  • some governments aren't waiting to take action.

  • In June of 2020, the UK government established the JetZero Council,

  • part of a post-pandemic green recovery plan that includes the adoption of sustainable technologies

  • to reach the goal of zero-emission flights by 2050.

  • Meanwhile, the French and Dutch governments have tied COVID bailout money for Air France-KLM

  • to a reduction in carbon emissions.

  • But how will the global airline industry reach these sustainability goals

  • while grappling with the massive financial hit from COVID?

  • Well, one of the easiest ways could be to re-think our fuel source.

  • Sustainable aviation fuel, also known as SAF, is a cleaner substitute for dirty fossil fuels.

  • Unlike traditional fuel like petroleum, SAF is made from waste

  • animal fats, sea scum, lawn clippings, even food scraps!

  • These alternative fuels are chemically similar to petroleum-based jet fuel.

  • Once SAF is combined with conventional fuel, it forms a “blend,” which can bedroppedright into the fuel tank

  • without making any adjustments to the aircraft.

  • Several pioneering companies are furthering SAFs adoption and helping airlines kick their fossil fuel habit for good.

  • One contributor is Lanzatech, a Chicago-based biotech start-up.

  • In 2018, they began operating the world's first commercial plant converting industrial waste gases to fuel.

  • Their secret sauce is genetically-modified microbes from rabbit poop.

  • Lanzatech is also working with China's leading iron and steel company to ferment carbon monoxide from steel mills.

  • Microbes transform carbon monoxide to make ethanol, like yeast does with sugars when making beer.

  • This ethanol is then heated in the presence of a catalyst, a substance that speeds-up a reaction,

  • and converted it into the same hydrogens and carbons that make up traditional fuel.

  • In 2018, Virgin Atlantic successfully used Lanzatech jet fuel on a commercial transatlantic flight.

  • In Sweden, another company, Renfuel, is tapping the forest for inspiration.

  • Lignin is a natural polymer that gives trees their strength, but it's also considered a waste product in the paper industry.

  • Renfuel is converting this material into an oil called LIGNOL, to give it a second life as biofuel.

  • One of the world's largest financiers of green business, is backing the development of a lignin plant

  • that's expected to produce 185,000 tonnes of LIGNOL a year.

  • It's going to go...you guessed it! Right next to a paper mill.

  • The plant will be ready in 2021.

  • In the Netherlands, a sustainable fuel company, SkyNRG is taking carbon recycling to another level.

  • As part of a study, they're working with Climeworks to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into jet fuel.

  • We've mentioned Climeworks on this channel before; at their Iceland pilot plant, they're capturing CO2 and injecting it into rock!

  • So, if green aviation tech is here, why aren't we flying guilt-free and green?

  • For starters, there's still not enough incentive for airlines to use new technologies.

  • Sustainable aviation fuel costs at least twice as much as traditional jet fuel.

  • Fuel already accounts for up to 30 percent of an airline's operating cost.

  • So, for more airlines to use sustainable fuel, it'll need to become less expensive.

  • Because issues like cost have hindered the adoption of SAF, governments are using policy to regulate aviation emissions.

  • They're introducing SAF mandates, considering fuel taxes, and promoting innovation.

  • One thing that seems abundantly clear is we can't do business as usual.

  • One of the biggest factors in the adoption of sustainable aviation... is us.

  • By choosing to support companies and policies that encourage a low carbon footprint, we can all do our part to help save the planet.

  • Let me know if you liked this video down in the comments below.

  • Be sure to subscribe and I'll see you next time on Seeker.

In 2019, the world's airlines carried 4.5 billion passengers

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/05
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