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Air France uses cooking oil to fly to Canada as green fuel debate rages

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The first Air France airliner's Airbus A350 takes off after a ceremony at the aircraft builder's headquarters in Colomiers near Toulouse
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PARIS (Reuters) - Air France-KLM flew a biofuel-powered Airbus A350 from Paris to Montreal on Tuesday, demonstrating the airline's readiness to adopt low-emissions fuel despite deep industry divisions over the pace of its adoption.

Air France flight 342 took off from Charles de Gaulle airport with a 16% mix of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in its fuel tanks, produced in France by Total from used cooking oil.

The flight signalled a "shared ambition to decarbonize air transportation and to develop a SAF supply chain in France", the companies said in a joint statement with airport operator ADP.

Jet fuel produced from biomass or synthetically from renewable power has the potential to slash carbon emissions, albeit at a heavy cost by comparison to the price of kerosene.

Starting next year, flights departing from France will be required to use 1% SAF, ahead of European Union goals to reach 2% by 2025 and 5% by 2030 under the bloc's Green Deal policy.

But traditional network airlines have sought to exempt long-haul flights, arguing that a Europe-only SAF requirement could expose them to unfair foreign competition.

That has drawn an angry response from low-cost airlines including Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet, which wrote to the EU in March to demand that the rules apply to all flights originating in Europe.

Airlines have a "major responsibility" to cut emissions, Air France-KLM Chief Executive Ben Smith said on Tuesday - while reiterating doubts about European SAF quotas for long-haul.

"We have to be on a level playing field," Smith told Reuters. "We can't have a situation where airlines that are based outside Europe can undercut us, (and) that is a real concern."

Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based campaign group that signed the budget carriers' open letter, again rejected calls to exclude long-haul from biofuel rules.

Any such exemption would have "no logic", the group's aviation director Andrew Murphy said.

Green fuel used for the Paris-Montreal flight was produced by Total at its Oudalle plant near Le Havre as well as La Mede, a refinery in southern France converted to biofuels in 2019.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Writing by Laurence Frost; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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