May 18, 2024

Alternative Fuels – How Air Travel May Change in the Future News


Swiss flying behavior is huge on the global average. In a live chat, the experts answered your questions about what air traffic could look like in the future and what it means to fly climate-neutral.

Should there be a ban on short trips?

The availability of cheap flights has certainly contributed to the increase in air traffic, says Florian Egli, a lecturer in the energy and technology policy group at ETH Zurich. Therefore, he believes that higher taxes should be imposed on flights in line with the negative impact on the climate. According to the expert, acceptance of the tax on airline tickets is relatively high among the Swiss population at 72%. Ulrike Lönnmann, a professor of atmospheric physics, agrees, because flights will be more expensive. So it is no longer worth taking the plane for short distances. Julien Annette of the Aviation Center adds that rationing in power units has already been discussed: “In my opinion, however, such a restriction only has a real chance if it is applied worldwide.” However, ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement should lead to energy savings.

How should train services adapt?

Michael Windisch of the Institute for the Atmosphere and Climate at ETH Zurich believes that a tax on air tickets or on carbon dioxide emissions would make the railways more competitive: “Expanding train lines would also be more interesting from an economic point of view for the SBB.” Flying must become more affordable and the alternatives cheaper and more attractive. Ulrike Lohnmann asserts that the best alternative for short trips is the train.

We need less effort and more support in developing alternatives.

How climate neutral are new technologies?

There are currently alternatives using biofuels or synthetic fuels, says Florian Egli, because battery-powered flights for longer distances are not realistic due to the energy density. However, if production or transportation is taken into account, there is no complete climate neutrality with existing and planned technologies. In addition, Egli and Windisch criticize the production of fuels from biomass, as this can be at the expense of food production. However, the goal is to use these alternatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from air travel as much as possible. This requires more effort and support in developing alternatives, such as more efficient aircraft, improved trajectory or expanding the range of CO2-neutral fuels.

How harmful are cut plants to the climate?

Giving an exact amount of carbon dioxide emissions is difficult, says Julien Annette. A study on cut flowers by Britain’s Cranfield University showed that when considering emissions and/or climate damage for flower purchases, the entire production and transportation chain must always be considered. If you were to produce 12,000 roses in Kenya, about 2,200 kg of carbon dioxide would be emitted. Producing the same amount of roses in Holland produces 35,000 kg of carbon dioxide because additional energy is required in greenhouses for cultivation,” says Julien Annette.