The Aviation industry that was once synonymous to innovation and progress is now lagging way behind in terms of innovation to curb the carbon emissions.
The aviation industry contributes to 2% of the world’s global emissions. While the popularity of products and services causing emissions is reducing, air travel, on the contrary, is growing more popularity across the globe. IATA, the airline trade body, has predicted that passenger numbers will double to 8.2 billion a year by 2037. Plane makers Boeing and Airbus have forecasted that there will be a demand for 42,700-plus new aircraft over the next 20 years.
However, growing concern over global warming and climate change have caused the European Union to want the industry to reduce emissions of CO2 of 75%, of nitrogen oxides by 90%, and noise by 65% by 2050. For enforcement of this, a new Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, agreed by 70 countries, is expected to come into force in 2020.
In an effort to meet these formidable challenges, Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s major aero-engine makers, is set to launch its new-generation UltraFan, in the middle of the next decade, which will be 25% more fuel efficient than its first generation Trent engine. Airbus has said that while all-electric aircraft are still some way off, due to battery weight and range issues, it is more hopeful about developing a hybrid-electric plane. The manufacturer is predicting that greener, quieter hybrid aircraft could be flying commercially by 2025.
Although this is surely progress, the research for the project of the hybrid-electric plane is being conducted around a very small sized aircraft. This means that the development of a larger and long haul aircraft with a hybrid-electric engine may take a long time.
Biofuels made from plant material or animal waste have often been touted as a sustainable alternative to kerosene-based jet fuels. But given that a major airline might use more than four billion gallons of fuel annually, there is currently no biofuel plant in the world capable of producing even a fraction of what is needed. Also, there are several regulatory issues around the certification of biofuel for the safety-critical airline industry. Some biofuels in storage can degrade over time, and some have even affected rubber parts used in engines.
Apart from this, biofuels are currently more expensive than fossil fuels. This means that introducing them in the industry will increase the airline cost, making it unfeasible for them. This could cause a rise in airfares eventually, making travel less popular in the future.
The aviation industry is in a huge dilemma. The question is, is there a way out for it? Or will air travel cease to be a luxury for the privileged?
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The CSR Journal Team