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Aviation biofuels are not sustainable

 Photo: Manfred Irmer from Pixels.

By 2030, 30 percent of the aviation fuel used in Sweden will consist of biofuels. This is proposed by the investigator Maria Wetterstrand appointed by the Swedish Government. The new investigation pays no attention to that biofuels emit carbon dioxide and that increased harvesting threatens biodiversity.

By 2021, one percent of the aviation fuel in Sweden should be made of biofuel. The amount of biofuel will then gradually increase so that by 2030, the amount is 30 percent. The investigation proposes that the target should reach 100 percent renewable fuels by 2045.

An increasing number of scientists warn about the negative effects of biofuels. Protect the Forest and Biofuelwatch UK/US have informed Maria Wetterstrand about this. However, Protect the Forest implies that the investigation is a disappointment which sends the wrong signal. The Government must ensure that the number of flights is significantly reduced and that larger investments are made on increased rail traffic. 

Kristina Bäck from Protect the Forest says:

”It is not possible to continue to fly as usual and advocate increased harvesting and use of biofuels to mitigate climate change. It is far from sustainable. Logging boreal forests and increasing the combustion of biofuels exacerbates global warming.”

However, the investigation has, according to Protect the Forest, incorrectly found that biofuel conversion will lead to reduced emissions in the future. The air travel is also expected to increase, not decrease. Using logging residues from forestry as biofuel is advocated. However, 10 percent of all bioenergy from the forest in Sweden comes from whole trees, not residues. There is a risk that logged natural forests may become biofuel.

Protect the Forest is concerned that the Government does not adhere to the science. Almost 800 scientists warn that forest biofuels emit more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels. The scientists write that if forests are harvested for bioenergy, even if it is done in a sustainable way, and if forests are allowed to regrow, carbon dioxide is emitted. The warming impact can last for decades up to a century.

Protect the Forest states that the number of flights as well as the energy consumption need to decrease radically. Kristina Bäck says:

“We log forests that sequester carbon dioxide to get biofuels which emit carbon dioxide when burnt. The last unprotected natural forests in Sweden are in risk of being logged in order to become aviation fuel and short-lived products. It is greenwashing to call this sustainable .”

Protect the Forest states that, in addition to energy efficiency, the consumption and production of paper, forest products and other natural resources must be greatly reduced in favor of reuse and recycling.

The Swedish Energy Agency is commissioned to analyze whether financial support is needed for investment or operational development of production facilities with new technology. This is initially presumed to be costly.

“This means that taxpayers will subsidize increased flying on behalf of our forests”, says David van der Spoel, spokesperson of Protect the Forest.