German officials yesterday unveiled what they say is the world’s first commercial plant for making synthetic kerosene, as part of an effort to reduce flying’s contribution to climate change.
The facility in Werlte, near Germany’s northwestern border with the Netherlands, is to use water and electricity from nearby wind farms to produce hydrogen. By adding carbon dioxide, the hydrogen is converted into crude, which can then be refined into jet fuel.
Burning synthetic kerosene means only as much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as was previously removed to produce the fuel, making it “carbon neutral.”
The amount of fuel the plant can produce from early next year is modest — just eight barrels per day. That would be enough to fill one small passenger plane every three weeks. The world’s commercial airlines used almost 2.3 billion barrels of kerosene in 2019.
However, the organizations behind the project say its purpose is to show that the process is technologically feasible and — once it is scaled up and with sufficient demand — economically viable.
The project is led by Atmosfair, a German non-profit group that provides ways for individuals and companies to offset their carbon emissions. Engineering giant Siemens AG helped build the plant, and national carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG is scheduled to be the first customer to use the synthetic kerosene.
Separately, the Austrian government has announced plans to reform the country’s tax system in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The government said on Sunday that it plans to introduce a new carbon tax beginning July 1 next year, and would return that money to residents in the form of a “climate bonus.”
Starting next year, Austrians are to start paying 30 euros (US$34.84) per ton of carbon dioxide — a cost that is likely to be added to consumer bills by companies. That is scheduled to rise to 55 euros per ton in 2025.
The government expects to generate about 5 billion euros from the tax by 2025.
Each resident in Austria is to receive an annual reimbursement, with the exact amount determined by where they live to ensure those in rural regions without good public transport do not lose out. Children are entitled to half their parents’ amount, so a family of two adults and two children in Vienna could expect 300 euros, for example.
The goal is to encourage people to opt for climate-friendly forms of transportation and heating by making carbon-intensive choices more expensive, without adding to the overall tax burden.
The governing coalition of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s Party and the environmentalist Greens also announced income tax cuts, a reduction in some health insurance charges and other measures that mainly benefit families and low-and-medium income groups.
It also plans to reduce taxes for companies in energy-intensive industries that could be hardest hit by the new carbon tax.
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