The International Air Transport Association has criticised the oil industry and national governments for failing to invest in the development of aviation biofuel.

Explaining why he is "disappointed" with the lack of government action, IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani cites the "billions of dollars of bailout" received by the ailing car industry. He complains: "We have not seen one penny from governments investing in biofuels."

The oil industry, meanwhile, yields $9 billion in refinery margin from the aviation industry's annual fuel bill, according to Bisignani. "It's time for the oil companies and governments to understand that this is a great opportunity we're missing," he says. "It's time to try to help the small entrepreneurs who are developing farms for biofuel."

Bisignani was speaking on 21 January at an event marking the arrival in Geneva of an Airbus A380 test aircraft (serial number 4, registration number F-WWDD). The superjumbo flew in from Zurich, where it had completed airport compatibility tests the previous day.

Both IATA and Airbus are calling for government authorities to support the aviation industry's efforts to gain priority access to biofuel, arguing that the industry does not have other energy options because, unlike the automotive industry, it cannot use electricity, while hydrogen would not be economically viable even if it were technically achievable.

IATA has set a goal of achieving carbon-neutral growth by 2020, as part of a wider strategy to halve net emissions by 2050 (compared with a base year of 2005). Bisignani admits that association members were "shocked" when he introduced this goal at an annual general meeting in Vancouver in June 2007.

Bisignani believes that third-generation drop-in biofuels offer the potential to reduce aviation's carbon footprint by 80%. He expects certification for such fuels - which would not interfere with the food or fresh water supply chains - to be gained either by the end of 2010 or early in 2011.

IATA is lobbying state authorities to adopt a global, sector-specific approach when they proceed with economic measures intended to reduce aviation's environmental impact. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is the correct institution to implement any such measures, IATA believes.

Source: Flight International