Home/The hope for ethical and eco-friendly air travel
June 15, 2022

The hope for ethical and eco-friendly air travel

When was the last time you flew? Did you give any attention to the carbon imprint that your aircraft creates?

Carbon emissions from the aviation sector have been a highly popular subject recently, despite the fact that most of us don’t give it much thought. This is mostly due to the increased focus on issues of sustainability and climate change.

At the moment, air travel is responsible for around 2 percent of all global emissions, which is the same amount as those produced by some whole nations like Germany and Canada. And since emissions from the jets’ fuel are responsible for the production of the vast majority of aviation greenhouse gasses, there is a rising need for the development of methods that are not only cleaner but also, preferably, more affordable.

The search for more environmentally friendly alternative

The aviation industry is already taking some enormous strides towards reducing its carbon footprint, punctuated by recent announcements by some large airlines that they would become carbon-neutral soon. In addition to making preparations to make investments in more environmentally friendly sources of fuel, the airline has made a commitment to the purchase of carbon offsets for all domestic flights.

One of the leading airlines in Europe, Lufthansa, is in the process of producing a new kind of environmentally friendly aircraft biofuel. This biofuel will be generated from “concentrated sunshine” and carbon that is taken straight from the air. Because the CO2 emissions were previously removed from the environment during the manufacturing process, the gasoline has zero net emissions of carbon dioxide.

Biofuel is being provided by Neste, the biggest provider of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the world, to three airlines in the United States that depart from San Francisco International Airport. 

The business claims that their biofuel, which is produced from a combination of waste materials that are renewable and sustainable, such as used cooking oil and pig fat, may cut emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 80 percent. Through a one-of-a-kind pipeline, which the San Francisco airport has referred to as “a climate quantum leap,” Neste’s biofuel will be used to power planes operated by American Airlines, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines.

Is green hydrogen the new jet fuel?

On the road to more environmentally responsible aviation, hydrogen is gaining traction as a potential alternative to fuels like gasoline and kerosene. Even though the majority of hydrogen produced today is derived from methane and natural gas, there is a rising demand for “green hydrogen,” which may be the answer to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the aviation sector.

“…we have the objective to deliver a zero-emissions commercial airplane to the market in the early 2030s, and one of the most promising technologies that will enable us to achieve so is hydrogen,” the company said. It is possible to generate it directly via the use of solar and wind power, and we are then able to store that energy onboard through the use of fuel cells or combustion in a gas turbine. — Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus Vice President and Global Head of Zero-Emissions Technology

The European Union (EU) has already outlined ambitious plans to have hydrogen-powered aircraft in the skies by the year 2035, which has the potential to decrease emissions by up to ninety percent. Green hydrogen is produced by separating oxygen and hydrogen from water via the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and sun, which is then able to be stored in a fuel cell.

Green hydrogen, on the other hand, produces just one basic byproduct, which is water, in contrast to jet fuel, which releases harmful byproducts including nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Even though we need a significant increase in the generation of environmentally friendly hydrogen, work is already well under way. The clean hydrogen production plant that will be the biggest in the world is scheduled to open in California in 2023. The project will use recycled garbage as its primary fuel source and produce roughly 4 million kg of clean hydrogen per year.

Over the next 10 years, it is anticipated that expenditures into green hydrogen will increase as a result of dropping prices associated with solar and wind power. At the end of 2019, the worldwide production capacity was somewhere about 250 MW, but it is expected that by the year 2025, this number would surpass 3,200 MW, which represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.

It’s possible that future airplanes will Run on electric batteries

Because of the remarkable growth of electric automobiles over the last five years, there is a rising interest in investigating whether or not electric aircraft powered by batteries may decrease the amount of carbon emissions produced by flying.

At the moment, the most significant barrier is weight, since around fifty kilograms of batteries are required to equal one kilogram of jet fuel. Additionally, since batteries do not deplete as fuel does, aircraft would need to carry additional weight during the whole of the flight, which would make long-distance flying exceedingly challenging.

However, despite the fact that batteries may not be the solution to the problem of carbon emissions in the aviation sector just yet, there are a lot of interesting advancements in the works. A research group in Switzerland has developed an all-electric trainer aircraft in the hopes that it would be able to fly a distance of more than 400 miles without producing any emissions and, in the process, shatter world records.

Elon Musk, who has always been at the forefront of developing environmentally friendly technologies, has indicated that with advances to battery density, electric flying may be viable within the next three to four years; this is far earlier than was previously believed.

Putting aside the obstacles posed by technology, electric aircraft have the potential to dramatically cut the emissions caused by air travel and potentially make it possible for full flights to be powered by renewable energy. And despite the fact that batteries may only be suitable for use in tiny aircraft that travel short distances – at least initially – the advantages of electric aviation may cause the whole sector to undergo significant change.

Travel by air that is free of carbon emissions is now possible

It is becoming simpler for us to make decisions that are better for the environment when we go to purchase an airline ticket as we continue to make progress toward environmentally responsible flying.

 There are, however, other methods to fly without producing any carbon emissions while we wait for alternatives such as biofuels, hydrogen, and batteries to become the norm. Calculating the carbon emissions of your flight and purchasing carbon offsets are two options for mitigating the negative effects of your trip on the environment. You may do this regardless of whether you are traveling for business or pleasure. In addition, you have the option of purchasing direct flights, reducing the amount of baggage you bring with you, and traveling shorter distances by trains or buses.

 The advent of modern aircraft has made traveling over great distances easier and more comfortable than anybody could have ever dreamed. Despite these advancements, however, we still need to be conscious of the amount of energy and fuel that is necessary to get us from one location to another.

But now that more airlines are providing environmentally friendly options, there are easy methods to offset your emissions, and there is a rising demand for environmentally friendly aviation fuel, taking a flight is on its way to being a completely guilt-free experience.