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 January 13, 2012
Lufthansa Declares Biofuel Trials Successful, Ceases Using Biofuel

 The German airline Lufthansa has ceased its domestic trials of biofuel -- but not because the trial failed. On the contrary, 1,471 tons of CO2 have been saved on over a thousand domestic flights between Frankfurt and Hamburg. Lufthansa is capping off its trial run with a transatlantic biofuel powered flight.

Burning the Biosynthetic Kerosene

The flight in question is a Boeing 747-400, from Frankfurt to Washington DC, and carrying 40 tons of a biosynthetic fuel mix. The expected CO2 emissions reduction compared to standard fuel is 38 tons. The international flight is the final step of Lufthansa's test run, which used a 50/50 mix of standard fuel and biosynthetic kerosene.

The trial ran from July to December of last year, using a total of 1,566 tons of the biokerosene mix to save 1,471 tons of CO2, and has been declared a success. Not only were carbon emissions reduced, but the higher density of the biofuels also reduced fuel consumption during flights.

Joachim Buse, vice president of aviation biofuel at Lufthansa, as reported by Business Green, spoke briefly about ending the trial:

"Our burnFAIR project went off smoothly and to our fullest satisfaction. As expected, biofuel proved its worth in daily flight operations."

It Was Great, But No Thanks

With such positive results, one might think that Lufthansa would be switching all their flights to the biofuel mix, but that would be totally wrong. While the biofuel itself performed admirably, the problem once again comes back to sustainability.

The biofuels available to today's consumers and companies are neither sustainable nor, apparently, affordable. As reported by Business Green, Buse also noted that despite the need for emissions reduction, Lufthansa will not be using alternative fuels until they can get one that's more sustainable:

"As a next step, we will focus on the suitability, availability, sustainability and certification of raw materials. However, Lufthansa will only continue the practical trial if we are able to secure the volume of sustainable, certified raw materials required in order to maintain routine operations."

Food, Fuel, and the Ongoing Debate

It all comes back to the question of how to cheaply and safely produce biofuels without growing energy crops on land slated for producing food. One solution suggested by the transportation industry is to supplement standard fuel with biofuel rather than replace it (which is a wishy-washy sort of compromise). Another is to develop biofuel that doesn't impinge on food production (so much easier said than done).