Aviation: Sustainable Fuel — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 22 March 2016.

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Photo of Lord Soley Lord Soley Labour 2:45, 22 March 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what policies are in place to encourage the development of sustainable aviation fuels in the United Kingdom and what new proposals they are considering.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Government are assessing the benefits of making aviation biofuels eligible for the incentives that currently apply to biofuels used in road transport through the renewable transport fuel obligation. We aim to publish a consultation on legislative amendments to this scheme later this year, including proposals for aviation biofuels.

Photo of Lord Soley Lord Soley Labour

That is a useful statement and a step in the right direction, but is the Minister aware that we are still the largest and most advanced aviation producer in the world, except on sustainable fuels, where we have fallen seriously behind competitors in Europe, North America and Asia? What will the Government do to improve R&D on sustainable aviation fuels and will they please make sure that they include it in the renewable transport fuel obligation?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I mentioned in my Answer, we will be going out to consultation on this subject later this year, where we will look at increased targets for suppliers to provide long-term certainty to industry and to meet our climate change targets. We will also make biofuels more sustainable by increasing the supply of waste-based biofuels. We will also support investment in renewable aviation fuels by including it in the RTFO. We will also look at possible further competitions on top of the one already held, looking specifically at the jet biofuel issue.

Photo of Lord Spicer Lord Spicer Conservative

My Lords, it sounds as if these excellent new fuels will be polluting our airports rather less in future, so can we bring forward the Heathrow decision?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ahmad answered this question at great length last week or the week before. I do not think that there is anything more that I can add to it.

Photo of Viscount Slim Viscount Slim Crossbench

My Lords, I declare that some years ago I was the vice-chairman of the Air League. The Minister may wonder why, but the Air League has been going for many years. It was started by soldiers, not the light blue. We had certain very tough talks with the Government of the day on the taxing and pricing of aviation fuel. The Government of the day gave certain commitments, which I hope still stand. I say to the Minister on the very pertinent Question that the noble Lord, Lord Soley, raised, that if the taxes go up, everybody’s air ticket becomes more expensive.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Viscount raises an interesting point. To be perfectly honest, I am not aware of the answer, but if there is anything else that I can add I will write to him.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

In reply to a question asked in the Commons in January on the warnings from those involved in aviation that inaction and lack of clear policy direction from the Government were holding back research and development into, and the use of renewable fuels in aviation compared with other countries, the Commons Minister said that,

“there is more than one way of killing a cat. Yes, alternative fuels may have an important role to play, but more importantly … a market-based mechanism will allow other types of technology to be developed which can then be used to offset the emissions from aviation, which will always be dependent on liquid fuels”.—[ Official Report , Commons, 28/1/16; col. 397.]

Does not that statement of policy, contrary to what has been implied today, indicate quite clearly that the Government are, in reality, giving the aviation industry a double whammy: dithering over policy on the development and use of renewable fuels in aviation, as well as still dithering over airport expansion in the south-east?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, of course I would not agree with the noble Lord, as no doubt the House would acknowledge. Sadly, the British Airways Solena project has not progressed, though it is still live and discussions are ongoing between Ministers and British Airways on this issue. As I said earlier, three projects won the advanced biofuels demonstration competition, dividing up a fund of £25 million. One is in Swindon, producing methane for HGV vehicles. The noble Lord is right that we want to look further at the problems relating to aviation fuel. Unfortunately, in the initial competition, there was only one application from an aviation fuel project. I hope there will be another competition in the near future which will include some more.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt. It is actually the turn of the Liberal Democrats, as we have not heard from them yet on this Question.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

Does the Minister accept that we need to work with international partners in order to develop the use of sustainable aviation fuels? Does he accept the importance of the European Union as one of our international partners, so it is important for us to remain a member of the European Union?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right in so far as we have to look globally at the whole issue, including what is happening in the European Union. As the noble Baroness will no doubt be aware, we have been working with the International Civil Aviation Organization. In February, we reached agreement with other states in the ICAO on a global CO2 standard for aircraft, which is all part of the same picture. All new aeroplane designs applying for certification from 2020 will have to be compliant with the CO2 emissions standard. Designs already in production will also need to comply from 2023.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour

My Lords, when will the consultation be concluded and when will the Government implement it?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I said earlier, the consultation will start later this year. I do not have any information on when it will conclude but I have read out the areas that we shall be looking at. Of course, I will write to the noble Lord if there is any more information that I can give him.

Photo of Lord Rotherwick Lord Rotherwick Conservative

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that producing sustainable fuels with high levels of ethanol is not the problem? General aviation has a problem with combustion engines which do not deal well with high levels of ethanol in the fuel, as the hoses, the filters and the seals are incompatible with these high levels.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My noble friend is a lot more expert on hoses, seals and other aspects of aircraft engines. He makes some good points and I am sorry that I cannot comment any further.