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Brief Published: 6 Dec 2011

Air China Tests Biofuel


Following in the footsteps of United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Lufthansa, Air China has completed its first flight using biofuel derived from the jatropha plant. The vegetable oil is said to be fully sustainable, and doesn’t compete with food crops for land or water.

However, in the case of the Western airlines, the decision to use biofuel rather than traditional kerosene has increasingly been based on rising oil prices. Jimmy Samartzis, United Airlines global sustainability director, told the Wall Street Journal:“We’re not in a position to afford paying a premium jet fuel.”

At this year’s World Travel Market trade show in London, Swiss-based travel journalist and consultant, David Tschudy, said he believed China’s tourism market to still be in its infancy: “It’s mainly domestic, mostly weekend tourism, that’s noisy and dirty. It’s comparable to the US in the 1960s.”

If that’s the case, China’s national carrier’s decision to use biofuel may seem somewhat odd. Despite being in its infancy and enjoying a period of growth, the travel industry in China is in a similar, difficult position to the West. Although generally perceived as being an emerging economic superpower, the decision suggests that the country’s economy is actually somewhat overstretched, and far more delicate than is commonly believed.

Air China