Green jet fuel targets will push up cost of airfares: Rolls-Royce chief Warren East in stark warning to travellers
Greener fuel on planes will make air travel and shopping more expensive, Rolls-Royce’s chief executive has warned.
Speaking to the Mail at the Farnborough Airshow, Warren East, the engine maker’s boss, said the switch to so-called ‘sustainable aviation fuel’ (SAF) is ‘ultimately going to cost more’.
That appeared to put him at odds with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who insisted the Government’s ‘jet zero’ plans to usher in an era of ‘guilt-free flying’ should not mean higher fares.
Under the government’s policy, unveiled by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday, at least 10% of jet fuel must be made from sustainable sources by 2030
‘We will see cost rises in transportation,’ said East. ‘That’s just an adjustment, you can’t get something for nothing.
We clearly want to be able to continue to move goods around the world by air, but without trashing the planet.’
Rising prices would hit households already struggling with a surge in the cost of living.
But pressure is mounting on ministers and aviation chiefs to make flying more environmentally friendly.
Under the Government’s policy, unveiled by Shapps yesterday at Farnborough, at least 10 per cent of jet fuel must be made from sustainable sources by 2030.
UK domestic aviation and English airports then need to reach net zero carbon by 2040.
Insisting this would not push up prices, Shapps said: ‘I’m not somebody who thinks that we solve these problems by demand limitations or jacking up the prices on people.’
But East said: ‘Consumers who get on and off aircraft or who order packages that have to be sent around the world will have to pay more.’
Airlines are already using SAF – which is made from sources such as waste oil, fats, and non-food crops – blended with conventional fossil fuels to power flights but it currently represents less than 1pc of the total used in aviation.
Rolls-Royce chief rejects pay demands
Costs warning: Rolls-Royce boss Warren East
Rolls-Royce’s boss said the cost of living crisis was having a ‘horrendous’ impact but resisted meeting union pay-rise demands.
Warren East, who was paid £3.95million last year, suggested big wage increases could put jobs under threat over the longer term.
Last month, union Unite rejected an offer of a backdated 4 per cent pay rise for 11,000 shop-floor workers and a £2,000 cash lump sum.
It falls short of inflation, which is more than 9 per cent.
Speaking at the Farnborough Airshow, East, 60, said: ‘Of course we understand the cost of living, it’s horrendously steep increases.’
But he insisted the business must be practical – and must choose between agreeing on a big pay deal for workers to enjoy over a couple of years or persuade unions to strike a deal that means they ‘have a future’.
It is said to reduce emissions by up to 80 per cent compared to fossil fuels. Under current rules, SAF can only be used for up to half the mix of any plane’s fuel.
Derby-based Rolls-Royce has been testing engines using 100 per cent. The use of SAF is intended as a bridge to a hydrogen-fuelled future – technology which Rolls-Royce is also working on.
That is because hydrogen power will require completely different infrastructure for planes and airports and will take five decades to be phased in.
East, who was attending his last Farnborough before stepping down as chief executive, said the focus on sustainability meant the airshow was a ‘different universe’ from in the past.
‘The whole sector is geared up to take this on,’ East said, adding the Government needs to act as a ‘bridge between consumers and industry’.
East thinks this can be done by helping scale up SAF production, for example by channelling air tax revenues into plant investment or retraining North Sea oil and gas workers.
He said the higher cost for consumers for sustainable fuel would ‘undoubtedly’ hit demand for flying though ‘fundamentally’ aviation would be sustained by the need to keep economies ticking over.
Shapps said aviation emissions should never return to levels seen before the pandemic, when they fell sharply as flights were grounded.
He said: ‘From now on, it should all be downhill for carbon emissions – and steadily uphill for green flights.