Airlines chief slams big oil for 'peanuts' spent on biofuels

The head of the world's biggest airline association, IATA, berated the oil industry and governments on Friday for investing "peanuts" in cleaner biofuels.

"Biofuels could break the tyranny of oil and lift millions from poverty along with providing a sustainable fuel source for aviation," Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association said.

Bisignani told an industry conference on aviation and the environment that the oil industry had huge multibillion dollar earnings yet litle was being done to prop up biofuels made from non-food crops.

Governments had invested "peanuts, and what have the oil companies done? Peanuts." he said.

"It's a wake up call for them, we need to get them on board."

The civil aviation industry has laid out a range of emissions cutting targets for the coming years and decades aimed at tackle climate change, with about half of IATA's ultimate target of a 50 percent cut in emissions by 2050 relying on biofuels.

Bisignani noted that the air transport industry was overcoming the technical challenge of flying airliners on biofuels.

But it faced a huge challenge in ensuring sufficient refining, supply and distribution for the world's airports, with air engine makers, airlines and small developers left largely alone to spur biofuels.

"It is in the self interest of government to get much more involved and support the commercialisation of biofuels with incentives to facilitate the needed investments," he added.

IATA's chief renewed appeals for governments to join forces and set global standards for aviation to combat global warming at the International Civl Aviation Organisation later this month, rather than an uneven regional approach.

IATA is at loggerheads with regional and national emissions trading schemes, and additional taxes imposed by some governments.

Some biofuels have been criticised for drawing on vital food crops, land and water resources.

Aviation officials insisted at the conference here that their focus was on others sources such as algae and camelina (flax) for bio jet fuel.

IATA represents some 230 airlines.

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