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Ashamed of flying: this deputy from Toulouse calls for “stop shooting yourself in the foot”

For several years, Airbus teams have been studying sustainable fuel, a way to drastically reduce the greenhouse gases emitted by air transport. (©Airbus / Master Films / Hervé Goussé)

flight shame, aerobashing… In recent years, many neologisms have appeared in the French language to decry the air Transport considered too polluting.

Among the most critical voices are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as green peace which denounces in particular “the disproportionate climatic impact” of short flights such as that between Toulouse and Paris.

Aerobashing, a French specificity?

For Jean-Luc Lagleize, deputy (MoDem) of the 2and constituency of Haute-Garonne, these attacks on air transport exist almost exclusively in France. With Sylvia Pinel, MP (PRG) for the second constituency of Tarn-et-Garonne, he presented an information report on the future of the aeronautical sector in France before the Economic Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, Wednesday January 12, 2022.

Sylvia Pinel and Jean-Luc Lagleize presented their report on Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Sylvia Pinel and Jean-Luc Lagleize presented their report on Wednesday January 12, 2022. (©DR)

To produce this 129-page document, many players (sociologists, economists, NGOs, airlines, manufacturers, ministers, etc.) were interviewed about the present and the future of the sector. Aerobashing was one of the big topics discussed.

“During all these hearings, we discovered that aerobashing practically only exists in France or in Northern Europe (the word ‘flygskam’ comes from Sweden, editor’s note). Aerobashing absolutely does not exist in United States. In South America, the plane is the only means of transport that exists given the vastness of the countries and the impossibility of setting up rail. In all of Southeast Asia, there are no almost only islands, so the plane, it’s not even worth imagining to do without it. Inside China, there is an extraordinary market for the plane. So overall, that Only exists with us!”

Jean-Luc LagleizeMember of Parliament (MoDem) for the 2nd constituency of Haute-Garonne

“We are playing the game of Boeing and Comac”

To establish this report, the environmental NGO Greenpeace was interviewed. “At the beginning of the hearing, they explain that it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from air transport. But very quickly, it turns into: ‘We must reduce air transport’. Overall, these organizations seem dogmatic to me. It’s quite complicated to work with them…”, laments the deputy.

“We may have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot when we have an industry which is one of the world’s leading industries, which generates 700,000 jobs and positive foreign trade for France. It is also in the process of to decarbonize. So let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot because we’re playing into Boeing’s hands and Comac, the Chinese aircraft manufacturer.”

Jean-Luc Lagleize

For the elected representative from Haut-Garonne, these criticisms could undermine Airbus, the aeronautics giant, which employs 50,000 people, half of them in Toulouse alone. “If we want there to be only two constructors left, an American and a Chinese, let’s keep it that way! “, he slips, full of irony.

“Aviation accounts for 3% of greenhouse gas emissions”

Jean-Luc Lagleize believes that aeronautics is judged too harshly in France. “Globally, air travel accounts for 3% of greenhouse gas emissions. Housing is 30%. When we consider that housing pollutes 10 times more than air travel, what are we going to say? Do we stop building because it pollutes? Housing that pollutes too much, we close them and put people out? You have to be reasonable… “.

The deputy of the 2and constituency recalls that several measures, such as MaPrimeRénov’, have been put in place by the government to try to reduce the environmental impact of the most polluting homes. “But it will take a number of years before our existing housing stock is more virtuous. So let’s also accept that it happens in the same way for transport, ”continues the elected MoDem.

Does the shame of flying cause a decline in demand?

The report of the two deputies all the same relativizes the repercussions of this current of thought: “It does not translate in a significant way on the level of air traffic at this stage. In the opinion of many actors interviewed – travel agencies, companies airlines, but also economists and sociologists – the price remains to this day the determining factor in the purchase of a transport ticket, much more than environmental considerations”.

“SAF is the short-term future of aviation”

According to him, air transport could also quickly make significant progress in terms of greenhouse gas emissions thanks to the PURE (sustainable aviation fuel for sustainable aviation fuel). “It’s the short-term future of aviation, in the sense that it will be the easiest to implement,” he explains. A perfect compromise, according to him, to decarbonize quickly.

“In France, the entire energy sector works on it. There are two types of biofuel: that derived from biomass, created from forest and agricultural residues, cooking oils, animal fats or even cardboard, and that of synthesis, created from the CO2 present in the atmosphere and a synthesis with hydrogen”.

Jean-Luc Lagleize

He campaigns for biofuels

He estimates that the electric plane should only appear on the market within four to ten years and will only concern short flights. To have electricity or hydrogen on medium-haul, “we will have to wait until 2035 or even 2040”. And for much longer international flights, he doubts the ability to use only electricity or hydrogen. “For electric planes, the batteries today are too heavy. In terms of hydrogen, the payload capacity may not be adequate for long-haul flights,” he explains.

Faced with this observation, he pleads for the massive use of biofuel which, according to the Minister of Transport, emits 91% less CO2 emissions compared to kerosene.

A still disorganized SAF sector

“Planes are currently authorized to operate with a mixture of 50% SAF and conventional aviation fuel”, recalled Airbus, on November 29, when announcing the first conclusions of the “ECLIF3” study, conducted with Rolls-Royce, DLR (the German Center for Aeronautics and Astronautics) and SAF Neste, about the impact of sustainable fuel on the two engines of a commercial aircraft. This study aims to support the campaign to certify the use of 100% SAF.

But if flights made entirely with SAF are eventually allowed, this sustainable fuel should not be used massively by airlines. And it’s not by choice:

“This sector is not organized at European level. The countries and the various players work in their own corner. SAF suppliers explain that they have no outlets for the moment and the airlines say that they don’t have many offers”.

Jean-Luc Lagleize

And when demand is greater than supply, we end up with prices at their highest… As things stand, it’s hard to imagine airlines – which have suffered greatly from the effects of the Covid crisis – spending more money to switch to FAS.

“Biofuels are too expensive”

“It will remain expensive as long as the market is not organised, assures Jean-Luc Lagleize. We plead for this structure to be put in place at European level. This is why we want the French presidency of the European Union (in force since 1is January 2022, editor’s note) or a to strenghten to do that, ”breathes the deputy.

Having a French sector is an issue that had already been mentioned Jean-Baptiste Djebbari last May, on the occasion of the first long-haul flight with SAF between Paris and Montreal (Canada).

The United States is already betting on sustainable fuel

For MP Lagleize, the issue of FAS is urgent. “The United States did not wait for us to develop their own SAF sector,” he explains, implying the FAS support plan launched by the US President Joe Biden.

This particularly ambitious plan aims to reduce aviation emissions by 20% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this, the United States is counting on a production of 11 billion liters of SAF by 2030.

If France and more broadly the European Union do not take the SAF turn, the Toulouse politician worries that, within five to ten years, “we will be forced to import biofuel from the United States, delivered by a tanker that would cross the Atlantic to supply our planes”. We would then witness the height of irony.

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