Supply and demand is the most fundamental concept of economics and when it comes to aviation biofuels, demand is most certainly there. However, suppliers are faced with the double-edged challenge of scraping together large enough quantities of alternative fuels while bringing down the cost to a more palatable level.
In terms of making clear their desire to purchase alternatives to kerosene to reduce their carbon footprint, airlines deserve a hefty pat on the back. But unless they are willing to stump up a premium for greener fuels, that desire amounts to little more than a public relations exercise.
Proponents of alcohol-to-jet fuel are touting this as being the next big thing in making aviation more environmentally friendly. But we've heard all this before about alternative fuels derived from plant oils and animal fat. In the end, airlines that have carried out much-publicised flights using the latter have concluded that while their performance cannot be faulted, there is not enough of them and they are too expensive.
Realistically, airlines are businesses and are unlikely to willingly pay more for something when they can continue to buy a similar product for less. What's really needed is some kind of government incentive to really get these potentially game-changing fuels off the ground, together with some brave investors with extremely deep pockets.
(This appears as the second leading article in Flight International 21 February)