Experts warn that using pig fat as green jet fuel could harm our planet

The fat of dead pigs, cattle, and chickens is currently being used to produce greener aircraft fuel but a new study warns that this will ultimately be detrimental to the environment. Animal lipids are considered waste, so jet fuel derived from them has a significantly smaller carbon footprint.

The demand for petroleum derived from animal byproducts is projected to triple by 2030, led by the airline industry. Experts are concerned, however, that scarcity will force other industries to use more palm oil, which is a significant source of carbon emissions. 

Airlines are under pressure to reduce their enormous carbon emissions, which are primarily caused by the combustion of petroleum derived from fossil fuels in aircraft engines. However, according to a study conducted by Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based clean transportation advocacy organization, there are simply not enough animals slaughtered annually to meet airlines' growing demand for animal fats. Matt Finch from Transport & Environment stated, "there is not an endless supply of animals or animal fat."

Therefore, if there is a significant increase in demand from any source other than aviation, the industries that currently use fat will need to find alternatives. This substitute is palm oil. Indirectly, therefore, the aviation industry will be liable for an increase in the amount of palm oil pulled through European systems. Use of palm oil is associated with rising emissions as older forests that sequester enormous quantities of carbon are cleared to make way for new plantations.

Tallow and lard have been used for centuries to create candles, lotions, and cosmetics. However, over the past 20 years or so, the use of biodiesel produced from animal waste or used cooking oil has consistently increased in the UK and beyond.

According to new research, the use of animal-derived fuel in Europe has multiplied by forty since 2006. Much of this material is used in vehicles and trucks as biodiesel, which is considered a sustainable fuel and, as such, has a significantly smaller carbon footprint in accordance with the regulations. However, the governments of the United Kingdom and the European Union are keen to expand the use of these types of waste to greener aviation.

In order to achieve this, they are implementing stringent mandates requiring airlines to use a greater proportion of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in their canisters. For the UK, it will be 10% by 2030, and for the EU, it will be 6%; however, observers believe that these plans may place pressure on the current market for animal waste.

There are significant discrepancies between the UK and EU approaches. The United Kingdom is likely to restrict the use of higher-quality tallow in fuel, whereas the use of this material will be incentivized in Europe due to the greater greenhouse gas reduction attained with this fat. With a rise in demand, prices will increase, and this is likely to stimulate exports from the United Kingdom, which will have repercussions.

According to Transport & Environment, if all fuel originated from animal sources, a flight from Paris to New York would require the fat of 8,800 dead pigs. As a result of the probable likelihood that the United Kingdom will restrict the use of animal products and used culinary oils, refueled flights in Britain will likely contain only trace amounts of animal-derived material.