The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), a UK-based pressure group, has a repository of articles on its website, detailing the deleterious effect of modern aviation on human health. The fumes produced from aircraft, the AEF notes, are responsible for an increased risk of “deadly” blood clots, an exponential increase in strokes in women, and the erosion of lung function in young children.
People living in central London are especially at risk, according to the Environmental Audit Committee. Greenwich, Lewisham, and Hammersmith have levels of nitrogen dioxide that contravene European Union regulations on air pollution, whilst the City of London itself has more poisonous gases than the planet Venus. Whether the statistics are exaggerated is debatable, but it would be difficult to argue that aviation on all scales has at least some effect on the environment.
Jet fuel, much like petrol and coal, is high up on the list of eco-unfriendly substances, producing an estimated 3.5% of measurable climate change. Fortunately, Stansted Airport, in an effort to curb runaway emissions, and improve the reputation of the aviation industry, is to begin trials of a “pioneering” fuel that could “drive down emissions and power airport vehicles of the future.” Together with energy firm, ITM Power, the Essex hub will use two purpose-built Ford Transit vans to test ‘HFuel’, a hydrogen-based alternative to conventional jet fuel.
Over the course of a week beginning March 7 2011, the two vehicles will be absorbed into Stansted’s regular fleet, and perform regular airport duties. The vans’ performance will then be analysed by ITM Power to discern the “potential and development” of the fuel, and its viability for larger vehicles, such as aeroplanes and trucks. ITM Power’s chief executive, Dr Graham Cooley, noted that airports were “perfect locations” for HFuel tests.
Stansted will be the first UK business to receive its HFuel vans, but ITM claims that a further 19 companies will soon be involved in the trial.