The UK's first commercial flight run on biofuels has been described by Friends of the Earth as “a hollow PR stunt that paves the way for rainforest destruction”. Thomson Airways are running the test flight from Birmingham to Lanzarote.
Thomson had originally planned to launch a series of test flights in July running on used cooking oil, but the company was unable to source enough fuel in time and had to postpone their plan.
Friends of the Earth says it would take the average person about a hundred years to save up enough chip fat to fly from Birmingham to Lanzarote on a one-way flight.
The biofuels Thomson will now use include virgin plant oil from the US and babassu nuts from Brazil. Both are in very short supply, and the charity is concerned the company will use unsustainable alternatives when it launches daily biofuel flights next year.
Thomson's parent company TUI is already looking into soya and palm oil for its Thomson Airways fleet - and these are known drivers of rainforest deforestation.
Biofuels have been strongly criticised by anti-poverty campaigners, as their use means that land that could be used to grow food for people is instead growing food for vehicles. In addition, research has shown that biofuels from crops could be causing more climate-changing emissions than they save.
Friends of the Earth's Kenneth Richter insisted today (6 October) that “biofuels won't make flying any greener”. He said that their production is “wrecking rainforests, pushing up food prices and causing yet more climate-changing emissions”.
He added, ""The government must curb future demand for flights by halting airport expansion, promoting video conferencing, and developing faster, better and affordable rail services”.