Hypocritical to disallow palm oil for sustainable aviation fuel

LETTERS: The Centre for Research, Value Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Cervie) recently hosted a talk by Airbus Malaysia, which touched on challenges and opportunities in global business, as the industry must come to grips with the world demand for sustainability.

The talk discussed how the aviation industry is coping with the demand to decarbonise.

Increasingly, the industry has been asked to explore the use of more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The European Union and United States are aggressive in regulations to promote the use of SAF.

The use of SAF is on the rise, partly because of these rulings.

Produced from sustainable feedstock, SAF is chemically like fossil jet fuel. So changing or blending is not a problem.

Using SAF will reduce carbon emissions from the aviation sector.

Typical feedstock used include waste cooking oil and other waste oils from animals or plants, household and business solid waste that would otherwise go to landfills or incinerators.

Other potential sources include waste wood, and energy crops, including fast-growing plants and algae.

The most popular feedstock however is waste cooking oil.

This is because it is most widely accessible compared with others.

But what is most intriguing is that waste palm oil does not qualify based on the regulatory guidelines.

However, notwithstanding this ruling, there is evidence to show that palm-based waste cooking oil is widely used because of its abundance.

SAF producers know this for a fact, but continue to bash palm oil.

Liquid fuel offers the right energy density for use in commercial flights. There are no other options.

A return flight between London and San Francisco, for example, has a carbon footprint per economy ticket of nearly one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent.

With the aviation industry expected to double to more than eight billion passengers by 2050, the contribution to greenhouse gas emission is potentially enormous.

SAF can reduce emissions by up to 80 per cent over the lifecycle of the fuel compared with jet fuel, depending on the sustainable feedstock used, production method and the supply chain to the airport.

Studies have shown that SAF is safe to use according to all the mandated quality tests for jet fuel. It can be blended at up to 50 per cent with jet fuel.

Any aircraft certified for using jet fuel can use SAF. However, SAF is more costly than fossil jet fuel.

This is because of a combination of factors, including the current availability of sustainable feedstock and the development of new production technologies.

As the technology matures, it will become more efficient. It is expected to become less costly for customers.

SAF will play an important role in meeting the aviation industry's carbon reduction targets.

There are other opportunities for carbon reduction in the industry, such as more efficient aircraft design, smarter operations and the development of future technologies.

More airlines are persuaded to use SAF despite the higher cost. The industry is committed, but governments need to create the right policies to accelerate the growth.

Increasing production requires long-term policy certainty to reduce investment risks, as well as a focus on the research, development and commercialisation of improved production technologies and innovative sustainable feedstock.

Waste palm oil is viewed by many as a competitive feedstock.

The hypocritical regulation disallowing palm oil should change.

Palm oil stands out over others as the most attractive feedstock. It is renewable and natural.


UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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