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Budget Airlines: European Clean Fuel Quotas Are Unfair

Several low-cost European airlines and a few environmental groups have asked the European Commission to extend a quota plan for sustainable aviation fuels from local flights only, to long-haul ones as well.

“Excluding long-haul flights from the SAFs mandate would mean the very area of our sector that most needs to decarbonise would not be covered at all by this legislation,” the group said in a letter it sent to the Commission, as quoted by Reuters.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) account for 34 percent of the carbon emission reduction potential of the industry, according to the managing director of Airlines for Europe, Thomas Reynaert, second only to aircraft technology improvements. Yet, they are several times more expensive than regular jet fuel.

The budget airlines, however, do have a point besides a fairer distribution of the additional costs they would bear with SAFs. It is not short-haul flights that generate most of the aviation industry’s overall emissions. It is long-haul flights that are responsible for the bulk of emissions, at 80 percent of the total, according to the Air Transport Action Group.

“There is no logic in excluding long-haul flights from SAF usage obligations as this is their only possible way to decarbonise,” the chief executive of one of the signatories of the letter, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, said in a separate statement.

The air travel industry was among the worst affected by the pandemic. Now, things are beginning to look up as vaccinations increase, but low-cost carriers may be about to face heightened competition. Industry insiders told CNBC recently they expected changes in travel patterns, with a lot fewer corporate travel flights and a lot more tourist destination flights, with low-cost carriers have reigned supreme.

The pressure on airlines to use sustainable fuel more has been growing in tune with the green transition push as air travel accounts for 2 percent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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