There is a lot of greenwashing and intentional abuse by using especially SAF for unsustainable fuels. So let me give you a short definition and help me and all others on the road to sustainable aviation to understand the greenwashing and using the proper wording for the proper thing!
At first, we started to blend biofuels into our car fuels. It is what you use in your car, blended as E5 (5%) or E10 (10%) into to fossil fuel. So it is lipstick on pigs, as in reality, it is still 90% or even 95% fossils! And may be very likely the reason, why fossils (and CO2) are still on the rise and growing.
Anything not Zero-fossil such by definition is not “sustainable” in reality. At max it can be a step on the road to sustainability. Mostly an attempt for Greenwashing!
So first we had biofuel. Which by definition is from a biological source, like rapeseed. With environmental activists for years complaining that valuable agricultural space (fields) are abused for biofuels instead of human food. And Amazon and other forests are being burned down to plant such seeds.
Biofuels to date comes always blended, engines are not able to operate on unblended biofuels without major modifications! There was another greenwashed development, where Lufthansa in cooperation with DB Schenker operated a 100% Carbon-Neutral cargo flight, offsetting the CO2 from unsustainable fossil fuels. As was openly discussed at and reported from COP26, offsetting is #greenwashing. It’s not in itself “green” but a sale of indulgences.
While we also planned with Biofuel when we developed the Kolibri business and financial plans, we back then already understood that as the only option then available and such the maximum step we could do to fly somewhat sustainable. But then I learned about
SynFuel (my choice)
Just about three years back, I stumbled across a report about Sunfire.de, developing something they called SynFuel. I still use that word, whereas SynFuel is also called e-Fuel or PowerFuel. I do not like those two “modern” terms. As e-Fuel implies (I believe intentionally) “electric” (e-Mobility), which has nothing to do with it. And PowerFuel implies a higher power efficiency which as as missleading. So I file those namings under attemps for white- and greenwashing.
SynFuel by definition is Synthetic Fuel, refined by CO2 and Hydrogen. The name is program. So I encourage use of SynFuel and not those other names that are rather distractive.
Speaking to Sunfire back then, I triggered their understanding that aviation is a key target market for their SynFuel, which they originally envisioned as a Diesel-replacement. So I speak about SynFuel for the generic addressing of fuels, SynKerosene and SynDiesel for specific replacements.
SynFuel has been proven to be able to operate unblended, at 100%, both for cars, trucks, ships or aircraft. It might be noteworthy that the Hamburg SynFuel pilot facility at Hamburg Airport is said to not have been just opposed, but in fact boycotted by Lufthansa there. For the fear to be pushed towards it’s use, which they are not ready for. Unwilling. A clear sign about their real “sustainability interest”, which is pure greenwashing!
In my opinion, SynFuel is the main, in fact the only candidate to replace fossil kerosene in aviation. At this time, the production of SynFuel requires quite some energy; 15.3kWh/liter. Energy that taken from the grid, especially in Germany with the worldwide highest grid cost, will make it very expensive. But.
But if you develop green energy sources and use those to refine SynFuel, you have several advantages. The energy cost drops drastically. You replace grid-power, which is not green, no matter what you “buy”. The demand for green grid power by far exceeds the supply today. So that’s just more greenwashing! Only green SynFuel is sustainable and Grid-Energy is not sustainable either!
It’s rather new, which might explain conservative politicians and industry leaders still holding on to the less sustainable e-mobility. Or wishful thinking like liquid hydrogen flying, which will not have any impact by 2030, realistically a lot later than 2050! And a meek excuse by most of our industry leaders to delay investment into real sustainability.
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) – the Greenwashing Lie
When IATA commits to 2% blending of SAF into fossil fuels by 2030, that “SAF” is used to pretend sustainability. In IATAs definition, that includes both BioFuels, as well as any-colored SynFuel. If they would be honest, their commitment would require to amount for 2% net sustainability. Which in itself remains an embarrassment! Even on cars we have already E5 in most countries as a standard, E10 an option. And aviation commits to E2?
The only real SAF is 100% green SynFuel
meaning the source energy is green!
Even waste-to-liquid is not really SAF, as the waste often is not from sustainable sources. But experts agree so far that it is “circular” and helps to reduce the carbon-footprint. There it is more the waste-producing industry to replace i.e. fossil-based plastics with bio-degradable alternatives. Though I just had some lobbyist trying to convince me (seriously!) that plastic is good for climate…
Where my WhitePapers are meant as articles I keep updating occasionally. Different from such posts, which reflect my knowledge, opinion and ideas at time of writing. They are also rather nice in review, seeing my head still being round, but my ideas mostly sound.
This all is
Food for Thought!
And as usual, comments, disagreement, discussion and ideas are welcome!
This weekend German ZDF’s planetⓔ released a documentary about the electric car myth subtitled revolution or barrel burst. In addition, there was an emphatic discussion about hydrogen and mobility on LinkedIn, with very noisy advocates for e-Mobility. So I just wanted to summarize from the documentary some findings that are quite in line with my understanding of the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma and the Road to Climate-Friendly Transportation (beyond flying). And why I consider e-Mobility a lie.
Don’t get me wrong. We need e-Mobility. No better solution for a household with solar panels on the roof, a battery buffer and a range-demand that allows them to rely on the car. But.
Issue 1: The Batteries
Batterie Raw Materials
As you may remember, I keep referring to this article by National Geographic on the devastating cost of Lithium Mining. Lithium being to date the most important component for batteries. And the replacements ain’t any better! In addition, they need some rare minerals, the prices of which are exploding. Guess the “impact” if we replace not just some 100 thousands but millions of cars by electric. We talk about 56 million cars having been produced in 2019 world-wide.
Experts already worriedly question the viability of battery-powered cars and the overly optimistic believe that the battery prices will continue to fall. China is reported to secure world-wide Lithium deposits, European car makers demanding governments to do the same! It just got to public attention recently on the U.S.’s retreat from Afghanistan (source-sample).
Another issue that slowly reaches the public is the issue of batteries catching fire. First major reports were on the Samsung Galaxy 7 catching fire, forcing i.e. an entire airplane evacuation. But searching the Internet, you find also more recent reports aplenty. Also the Boeing 787 experienced a problem with it’s battery catching fire (fortunately on the ground). Attributed by experts to the attempts to miniaturize and push up the battery capacity beyond their “safe margins”. The scientific term used to distract the public attention is Thermal Runaway…
Worse, recently despite their relative low numbers, electric cars are increasingly reported to catch fire. Some at first loading at a standard, approved home loading facility, others while driving. Different from gasoline, a thermal runaway and the resulting battery explosions cause a much higher real danger to the cars passengers. And it does not help to distinguish the fire, but such car must be placed into a water tank for several days to cool down the batteries. And after a fire, such cars usually are beyond any recycling. The picture just one example of the many that can be found on the Internet.
Incorrect disposal of Li-ion batteries can have a devastating environmental impact on the environment, sparking the need for recycling (Source). But as the ZDF-report also questions, there is virtually no recycling yet and the recycling comes with a bunch of issues. Like non-standardized components and liability issues, that currently result in a very limited recycling. As mentioned in safety, those liability issues are expected to be quite an issue for anyone attempting recycling. And the missing standards resulting even in different battery packs within the model family of the car makers. Making it even harder to recycle them!
Issue 2: The Energy Consumption
Again, now today we have the loading stations for electric cars and they are not enough. With the family in “Car City” Braunschweig (Volkswagen), at our owned apartment, there neither are possibilities to load the cars, nor even nearby. Publicly accessible loading stations are usually for 1-2 cars. But what if all cars are electric. You simply got to be kidding, right?
I have personal reports from friends frustrated about their electric car about unavailable loading stations and long waiting times, but there are also many on the web, like this one. Now let’s imagine a parking house that must be equipped with electric vehicle charging stations for all cars? Then imagine, one of those cars catches fire from a thermal runaway…
And here we talk about an industry country like Germany. Now think about less privileged countries…?
Range and Refuel
German Automotive Club ADAC just recently reported the average range of electric cars being about 350 km (220 miles), up from 250 km (150 miles) five years ago. Thinking about my role as an airline sales manager some years ago, for a road trip, I traveled frequently more than 500 km a day. Then I shall load the car after a half day, sitting around while waiting? Keep in mind, that corporate fleets and rental cars are the main buyers of new cars! And they don’t buy them because they park them most of the time…?
As mentioned before, then we talk about the loading infrastructure i.e. on highway truck stops. Just been stopping at one on one of the busiest German highways. With 8 lanes and 16 loading columns for fossil fuel, and two for electric cars. With two more already waiting in line.
It goes very much in line with the 3 biggest fears of our generation and the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma… Just in case you’re wondering why people still buy (and rent) mostly gasoline-powered cars.
The new Volkswagen ID.4 uses 22.8 kWh per 100 km (Source ADAC). Considering a “typical” average range for a car of 10-15,000 km, we talk about 300 MWh/a. Given 48.2 million cars registered in Germany (German source), we would need about 15 Petawatthours (15,000 TWh/a) one year alone. Any green energy source for that? Germany used 545 TWh/a in 2020… In 2020, about 252 TWh/a were produced from “alternative sources” (aka. green). That would be enough for the power requirement for about 850,000 electric cars…? Reminder, there are 48 million cars roaming German streets.
And sure, all that power comes from the Jack. And sure, it’s all green? Just like German Rail.
The CO2-Saving Lie
Looking at Volkswagen’s own Life-Cycle Assessment, planetⓔ just compared the CO2 on a single car. And how they used a European basis to lower their CO2 impact, instead of using the German statistics, where the impact is worse than on a normal Diesel. So planetⓔ also understand that in order to reduce CO2 is an energy-challenge, we must reduce the energy consumption, all else is blissful ignorance, cognitive dissonance or simply an outright lie!
The e-Mobility Lie
Like I found on the research for the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, we must look at the complete picture. Taking a look at some 50 million cars, which is excluding trucks, at 30 tons CO2 on a 15 year life cycle we talk about 2 tons a year per car. Or 100 million tons of CO2 just in Germany. Make your own maths on Europe or the World.
So to make electric cars “sustainable”, green energy is needed. Which takes us back to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. And it confirms my opinion that while we must turn aviation climate friendly and start n.o.w.! There are a lot of other areas that all boil back to the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. Good ideas mentioned by planetⓔ at the end of the report were needs to rethink transportation. The need to reduce the number of cars. Car sharing, better public mass transport systems, etc., etc. And to develop integrated transportation that works for both, the major cities everyone uses as the role model, but also the rural regions.
The Necessity for a Holistic View
As I mentioned in my post about Flygskam, we have a very … strange? … view on aviation. As on sustainability. And I hope that journalists like planetⓔ, real impact investors and family office principals interested in real impact start more questioning those views. Stop “airline bashing” as addressed in Flygskam, stop worshipping the golden calf of e-Mobility and understand that we don’t have the luxury to do this or that, but that we need this and that!
Ready Player One? I love SciFi. There’s a lot really good ideas how we could merge individual transportation needs with “public” transportation. But that’s SciFi. We need to take the best ideas and evolve our transportation to sustainable ways in the real world. We must reduce energy. Integrate transport modes. Why does it remind me of the question why the big train stations are not at the airports? The “new” Berlin Airport being a perfectly bad example on this!
But if we don’t solve the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, if we don’t focus on ways to reduce energy, it’s all lip-services and greenwashing! And if you know investors who are interested to address this on an industrial scale and make real impact while making profit, I have a lot of ideas. Including profitable plans for myself and my industry, turning aviation environmentally friendly. But that’s only my part of the big picture. Though it covers already many complementary ideas we want to realize in other areas.
Today, two articles triggered with me, quite in line with my experience about ESG greenwashing and priorities and my impression that thinking about sustainability and the busted Paris agreement! There is no “Planet B”!
At the Unconference of the Green Impact Tech Alliance, I spoke about the Bumps on the Road to Sustainability (« speaker notes, Youtube link and Channel). Summarizing my thoughts about why all those claims for carbon-neutral and energy-transition are bland lies and far from real. More in line with “wag the dog”, distracting from the real problem. An issue just in line with Abdo’s message that most of what we hear is “shit, packed in chocolate cake” and we should believe only half of what we see, half of what we hear. And apply a reality check before we believe all the BS.
If you are into sustainability (beyond aviation) and ESG, I strongly recommend you have a look! And yes, I’d much like to discuss it.
Assuming you know my page addressing The Sustainability-Energy Dilemma, it all boils down to Energy consumption. But while we need to make smarter energy use and reduce the overall energy consumption, this is a challenge I don’t yet see addressed at all. “Digital” will solve the climate challenge? Adding more and more data centers that account already for more than half the electricity in the Frankfurt region will solve the climate challenge? How??
IPCC: We Busted 1.5°, 2° will be Busted 2025
So IPCC leaked that we busted our fancy climate goals already. As I do not believe that there will be enough change by 2025, looking at the crap our politicians, the industry and impact investors make us believe. Or as I also heard last week: We must stop talk-the-talk and start to walk-the walk!
It goes in line with my images in Bumps on the Road to Sustainability about the fancy idea to place big turbine generators into the Gulf Stream on the coast of Carolina (USA), with reports questioning if the Gulf Stream, so vital for European climate, will make it to Europe by the end of this century. Anyone remembers The Day after Tomorrow? I’m not as much worried about New York under an ice shelf, but what about Northern Europe?
ESG … Believe the Numbers …?
Countless how often I have heard impact investors disqualifying the ESG goals as 99% #greenwashing. Attempting to establish Kolibri with the commitment to drive true carbon-neutral flying, we sure have all the other SDGs in mind too (there are 17). With mostly quantifiable targets. And beyond (Human Rights as they go beyond SDGs).
But this brings me to those articles about ESGs and green funds and pension funds turning green but investing still large scale in BlackRock (who also has funds for fossils and weapons industry). And to Abdelrahman (Abdo) Wahba’s discussion at GITA I referred to above:
Question The Numbers!
Most of them are just marketing.
While we see a lot of small investments into “green tech”, most of those don’t qualify for “sustainable investment”, neither “impact investment”. As they add to the energy consumption without much of a plan aside using carbon credits from the real green ones that struggle as they are not on the investor’s radar.
None of the investors – and I’ll be happy to be proven wrong – invests into real climate change and sustainability. The pick the easy-to-achieve raisins. Sustainable needs a holistic view. No raisin picking. Any investment, any business plan not having a document about how they want to address all SDGs, plus diversity, ethnicity, human rights, is #greenwashing.
Talk- the-Talk or Walk-the-Walk?
Given the example I daily work with: Kolibri. To achieve our goal of carbon-neutral flying, the technology is there. No, it doesn’t need new inventions. Just application of what we have. But the technology is one thing, the energy-conversion from fossil fuels to SynFuel is the real challenge. One we believe can be achieved in 10 years. If we walk-the-walk!
But wait a minute. While I am very sure, this is real impact investing, I was just told by an investor that such long-term does not qualify for ESG! ESG would not be about such future commitments, they require hard goals. Though burning green Synfuel instead more than a billion liters of fossil kerosene in 10 years ain’t a hard goal? Not according to their ESG-#greenwashing-tool…
Long-Term Planning: 2050 and beyond
What about the cargo fleets on the oceans, rivers, in the air and on the road? If ESG doesn’t have a way to set targets and adjust to plans, what is it really good for? Are “data centers” and “digital” part of the solution? Or more part of the problem? Don’t get me wrong, there are good IT projects that will make impact. But most are just more #greenwashing.
IPCC says we busted 1.5°C, also known as the Paris Agreement. We are to bust 2.0°C by 2025. And while aviation accounts for only a fraction of global warming, to change it seems to ambitious for impact investors. And politicians. Better to invest small and manageable and blend out the reality: #cognitivedissonance. Or outright lie.
Norsk e-Fuel a nice example disqualifying the EU’s talks.
Walk-the-Walk or Talk-the-Talk?
Food for Thought!
Foot Note: * As FT and Blomberg often requires a subscription to view articles, I have a saved copy of the article on file for friends.
Reading another, new SciFi (my way to relax my brain) triggered with an idea (not scientifically proven) of the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome. Intriguing. And yes, quite in line with my own “experience”. So is it really “Science Fiction”?
Ain’t that how it works? An assumption, then the scientific proof (or disqualification)? And how much that started in SciFi do we see in action today?
If you like SciFi, maybe you find Joel Shepherd an interesting addition to your books collection. If you read German, the first part of the series is currently on sale (i.e. buecher.de). And no, no profit from such recommendation.
Here’s the way the concept is described in the novel:
The human brain is trained to look for and identify patterns, but in abstract concepts, fixed and unarguable facts are hard to find. So the brain looks for narratives instead, stories that can tie together various ideas and facts in a way that seems to make sense, to make a pattern. And the human brain, always seeking a pattern as a basic cognitive function, will latch onto a narrative pattern compulsively, and use that pattern as a framework within which to store new information, like a tradesman honing his skill, or someone learning a new language.
That’s why religions tell such great stories, the story makes a pattern within which everything makes sense. A synchronicity of apparent facts. Political ideologies, too. Humans are suckers for a great story because we can’t resist the logical pattern it contains.
When you’re learning a new skill, discarding irrelevant information and organizing the relevant stuff within that framework is good. But in ideologies, it means any information that doesn’t fit the ideological narrative is literally discarded, and won’t be remembered . . . which is why you can argue facts with ideologues and they’ll just ignore you. They’re not just being stubborn, their brains are literally structurally incapable of processing what they perceive as pattern-anomalous data.
That’s why some ideologues get so upset when you offer facts that don’t match their pattern, it’s like you’re assaulting them.
From SciFi to Reality
Most my “novel” ideas ain’t mine. I just try to find practical applications.
1971 (yes, 40 years ago and as a kid) I became a fan of Roger Leloup, spending my pocket money on comics. And when Hyperloop became a buzz, I couldn’t help it to remember Leloup’s Vinean transport system.
We all know the Star Trek communicator. Ain’t that surprising similar to our today’s smart phones? With Google Translate, we can even talk to it, translating on the fly – and as far as I can tell, even German or English to Albanian works rather well. Not (yet) on previously unknown languages, but I believe we will get there.
And the buzz-topic A.I.? Aside the fact that all A.I. I learn of still is just I.A. – more or mostly less sophisticated Intelligent Algorithms. Back in 2008 I used that image of global nodes next to human brain synapses to question if we’re sure there’s no real A.I. yet. And if we’d recognize if there would be? By now, we talk about highly complex processors behind all of those nodes, the sheer computing power making it more likely by the day that our mighty Internet “wakes up”. Then we talk about i.e. Heinlein and Malcolm Croft or Athena?
And now comes a new, quite intriguing concept of the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome. Just SciFi? Or quite realistic in fact?
I just recently discussed our ideas for sustainable aviation. They are not new either. And more like a logical development from my first ideas about a hydrogen-powered WIG in 2008 as a n example to senior airline managers to think about sustainability. Then making use of current developments and understanding the merits of SynFuel. And thanks to discussions with Sustainable Aero Lab (thanks Mario!) leading to my understanding of the Sustainability-Energy Dilemma. But it’s in line with Ndrec and my believe in “social responsibility” and “sustainability” … beyond climate!
But while yes, our ideas could be “copied”, it took us more than a year and a joined effort incorporating the help of global subject matter experts, to make this a viable business plan. Yes, it can be copied, but with a steep and expensive learning curve. And we found “classic aviation managers” to be mostly blind on real “sustainability”. Having no idea about their Road to Environment-Friendly Flying, not even bothering about Social Responsibility or Sustainability. It’s a reason we plan with a team of open minded subject matter experts and not some famous names, except as advisors. And why we don’t plan taken over an existing airline with their expensive and inflexible and traditional process and thinking heritage.
Industry Scale Impact Investing
To make a real change, you need a team of entrepreneurs thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. But with an experience on pioneering work, overcoming the Bumps on the Road to Sustainability, making things happen. Because to change an industry, to change aviation, we also need investors with the might and the interest to support us doing the change.
It’s a sorry fact that mostly we hear lip-services and excuses, those investors sticking to their modus operandi, just adding ESGs for their own little greenwashing projects and playing things “safe” (known), else still focusing on quick financial returns. Invest in a bit *tech, add to the energy-dilemma, but ignore any industrial-scale change? Ain’t that what the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome addresses?
While Impact Investment is about making an impact first, while also making money, we talk about turning industries climate-friendly and socially responsible. While our plans sure secure the (risk-adjusted) ROI, the plans are long-term, bold and the startup investment is to start the journey (launch the airline) but we plan on a realistic decade for our goal of carbon-neutral (climate-friendly) flying. With sustainable and social responsible milestones and investments from the outset.
Cognitive Dissonance and the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome
So is the Compulsive Narrative Syndrome a source for Cognitive Dissonance? In my opinion it’s tightly linked. The Compulsive Narrative Syndrome the source for Cognitive Dissonance?
Discussing about the individual impact we make, the topic gains interest. What is your own, personal net-impact to our planet? So I decided to summarize some of the posts and comments I had on the topic on LinkedIn.
In line with previous posts about #lipservices, #cognitivedissonance and #wishfulthinking. And a #realitycheck for others, claiming “sustainability” that they do not deliver upon.
Self-Esteem over Sustainability
A clear article on it was today’s post by SEDO-founder Tim Schumacher Search: “People should only be classed as billionaires when they remove a billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.” referring to the CNBC article questioning the sustainability investments of Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) and Bill Gates (Microsoft founder).
In my comment, I emphasized that we need no ESG, but #sustainabilityaccounting. And much of what I see from these and other investors is showing their response to their conscience, focusing their activities on things they understand, but also things that have an impact to their self-esteem. And there was also this Open Letter to Bill Gates, reflecting on his #cognitivedissonance or #lipservices. I believe it’s simply cognitive dissonance. Keep in mind, these people also live in their social (media) bubble.
Yesterday, there was a report about industry leader/face James Hogan, former CEO of Etihad, caught in the act, trying to circumvent the Corona rules in place. It underlined my post two weeks ago, that we have airlines skipping pre-flight corona-testing regime. A disservice to an industry trying very hard to make flying safe! I’m sure he regrets that idea now, not having considered the repercussions of being caught.
#cognitivedissonance: While flying itself may be safe, passengers aren’t! Anyone claiming flying to be “safe” shall better keep in mind that the virus spreads and new variants keep spreading by travelers. Also and a lot pre-tested passengers are infected but not yet positive, they then spread the virus in their destination.
Then, let me talk about the decision makers at European Investment Bank (EIB). Claiming to be the European Sustainability Bank. In a conference by Geneva Macro Labs, I asked their head of climate office Elina Kamenitzer on her claim that they do green investments: Are there any success stories that proof the impact, the “impact” targets achieved ever since? Well, no. They “have to look into that now.” It’s about time.
I also reached out to my now ex-point of contact in EIB, about a co-investment into our impact plans. With (a cheap) reference to their Roadmap and the decision there to not finance conventionally fueled aircraft (page 102), he disqualified any investments into aviation. In utter ignorance of what I believe he understood (I did remind him), that we have plans that are not aircraft-funding related. But i.e. development into a synfuel-ecosphere. Our plans cover all of the 17 SDGs, mostly with quantifiable targets that we sure plan to exceed on. If you’re convinced to do the right thing, that comes as a natural.
But that ain’t what the bureaucrats at EIB look at, is it?
So back to the article topic:
What is Your Impact?
There is a petition against greenwashing on Change.org I urge you to sign! Discussing on that one, we had several discussions on how to define greenwashing. Whereas family office principals told me ESG would be the role model for greenwashing. A good idea, meanwhile abused. There may be some investors who understand the meaning of it. But not many.
It is the same about claims to be “sustainable”. Another family office principal told me, that out of the 2020 impact investments, only 4% were having clear impact to improve on SDGs. 96% were disqualified as they just claimed without goals and targets but simple claims misreading the causes. Nice if you plan SDG5 Gender Equality on your hiring process, but without clear targets on how to improve. Or if you abuse SDG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure for your “innovative IT project”.
Only Net Impact is Real Impact
We came to the conclusion that real impact is about net impact. And that “impact” is about reduction of the strain we put on the planet. To reduce power consumption by 10% but planning to increase the total power needs by 30% is intentional abuse of the sustainability claim.
There are many good examples out there, beyond what we plan at Kolibri. But we speak a lot with investors that want to cash-in on us before we launched. And investors, investing little money into small projects, more like a philanthropy, but an impact investment. Paying for a clean conscience, paying for their other daily sins. I just told one of the family office principals. We are looking not for those classic investors. We are targeting the family office space, as there are more investors than elsewhere wo take sustainability to heart. Who focus on it. Who are understanding that an impact investment might not be as profitable as i.e. Bitcoin. But it’s the right thing to do. And
Impact Investment ain’t philanthropy. Do good and make money!
So this time, not just Food for Thought, but a clear question:
While we have sound plans to establish a profitable airline, planning to operate carbon-neutral, #greenwashing and lip-services dominate responses we get from “impact” investors, why our model cannot be supported. And the same what is heard and seen from politicians and public funds.
Now the last weeks, the “green strategy” is a big issue in the media. European Investment Bank claiming to be be the “Sustainability Bank”. The Mission Hydrogen 24 hour workshop. The reality check on to German Rail’s sustainability. Or the facts about the “global recycling champion” Germany. So let me summarize these reports. And call for any serious investors interested to make a true impact, to talk to us and learn the big impact we want to make. While establishing a profitable, future-focused airline.
German Rail & 100% Sustainable Power?
Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t new. There have been reports about this ever since they started their fake promotion about 100% sustainable power. But just this week, German Television did a reality check, with rather devastating results!
Just 61% of German Rail’s power comes from renewable energy. 28% come from coal and natural gas, where German Rail partly owns the latest built coal power plant, built against all public opposition. German Rail has long-year delivery contracts for atomic power. And only 33 out of 5,679 railway stations are powered from renewable energies, 0.5 % … And by 2038 (17 years from now) German Rail wants to increase the use of sustainable power to only 80%, targeting 100% only for 2050.
That excludes non-rail business, like Schenker logistics, clearly focusing on Dieseltrucks. Where container transport by rail is more than six times more ecofriendly than trucks. But having demolished most of the industrial accesses, parallel tracks and being delayed on major infrastructure projects like the European North-South rail axis, now backfires and cannot be remedied quickly.
ECB & EIB – the Sustainability Banks?
While we talk with impact investors, we do also understand the European Central and the European Investment Bank claiming to be “Sustainability Banks”. Talking with the very same investors being “naturally” and clearly interested in sustainable projects, we asked why they would not make use of those funds to complement an investment into Kolibri or other impact investments.
The feedback I get is painfully clear. They do not work with the EIB (or other government fund programs) for the bureaucratic process required to be “approved” as an investor. I have multiple statements that attempts to support the investment failed. Assumption being voiced that those funds again go to the big players and into unqualified “green projects” that are mostly about #greenwashing. That includes a claim that EIB funds new aircraft for the dinosaurs – without any requirement(s) for those aircraft or the airline to develop a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint.
I also reached out to one of the experts in my network, working closely with those banks and doing studies on their sustainability, asking why venture capital or family offices don’t work closer with such government funds: “But what you report from your interactions with public investors is true even for smaller and less ambitious projects and companies in that public VC funds invest only if the concept is validated by the market in one way or the other. In other words, only if someone else confirmed the commercial success elsewhere.
Germany – the Global Recycling Champion?
Reality is, that Germany is the global champion in export of plastic trash. Instead of a strict recycling regime, 80% of the trash collected from the recycling bins is being either exported or burned.
The drop in export results directly from China having stopped and banned the import of plastic trash. So now, the pictures of plastic from African countries dominate the respective stories about German “recycling”.
At the same time, the plastics industry is booming. And instead of developing sustainable packaging, the trend is clearly towards mixed-use, the known bad example being “Tetra Pak®“; a packaging made of several layers that make it exceptionally difficult to recycle. And the few recycling factories being more for greenwashing than for recycling any meaningful amounts of that stuff.
There was also a report on TV this week on Coca Cola and how they changed from the recycling glass bottles to throw-away plastic bottles and Aluminum cans. Which was the beginning of the end of bottle recycling. And how their lobbyists ever since fight any recycling requirements…
Aviation – the Scapegoat?
Now, how about “my industry”, how about aviation? And why is it constantly the scapegoat and blamed for global warming?
When the aviation industry claims that it’s only responsible for 2% of the CO2-emissions, this is also green-washing. As aircraft engines exhaust contains also other “greenhouse emissions” and many if not most not on ground level, but at high altitude. The “contrails” being a visual reflection that people “know” and can identify. Experts in a report about Airbus this week accounted the greenhouse emissions by aviation to 6%. Not much, but only 4% of the world population flies. And 6% is substantial.
So aside our plans to use Kolibri.aero to establish the infrastructure and certify the use of 100% synkerosene to fly carbon-neutral, we also understand the issue of the aircraft-engine exhaust will require further research into greenhouse-effects of the remaining exhaust. But which only can start, once we start flying “carbon-neutral”! And yesterday, I was challenged twice about synfuel and that we’d need to look at use of battery, hydrogen and fuel cells. Referring to a very academic presentation by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Josef Kallo of the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) about How to fly with Hydrogen, addressing fuel cells at the European Hydrogen Workshop by Mission Hydrogen GmbH (Ltd.).
Electric, Fuel Cells and other Aviation #greenwashing
Speaking with one of those “challengers”, he argued that in 10 years the first regional aircraft will fly on fuel-cells. Being “project planning”, I’d say better add 50% reserve to that, then we talk about 15 years. And personally I still doubt that time line. And then we will have aircraft with 10, 20 or maybe 30 seats. With a range of one to two hours. When we will have aircraft that transports 100 seat? Or ones that can replace the 150-250 seats used by the low cost airlines? When do we expect aircraft to transport 250-350 passengers long haul? Hiding behind “Research”? Science Fiction…
The argument given was that batteries and fuel cells will become more effective. Which I file under “cognitive dissonance“. What excess in miniaturization results in, we all experienced with the B787 batteries self-enflaming. Or the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “fiasco”. Trying to mend the rules of physics is a true challenge. And that does not even cover the devastating ecological footprint not only of Lithium. If you want to wait for that to be resolved, we talk about “dirty” kerosene still in use in 20, 30 years!
And if that happens, our industry is worth being used as a scapegoat…
Change Happens – NOW!
Sustainable economy and global warming are big issues today, but most that we see is lip services. An investor group just recently checked impact investments for the “real” impact. They reported about 4% of all investments having a quantifiable impact or quantifiable targets. Only 4%. All others to be #greenwashing. On the “impact programs” of the 100 largest companies in Europe they found not a single one having more than one or two percent impact to global warming. Most of them being “lighthouse projects” that are being developed inside a “bubble” that does not immediately impact the company. Mostly lip-services addressing already established programs, but don’t really change the existing processes.
One example mentioned being the Electrolyzer delivered to Salzgitter AG for delivering hydrogen to be used in their steel-making process. A “research project”, largely funded by the hydrogen program. And now, being still in research phase, trialing it’s impact, it’s a “lighthouse project”?
The Fight against #Greenwashing + Lip-Services
And today I was confronted again with “avoid flying” as the first and foremost advise to stop global warming. While people will fly, economy needs flight connections as well. What we need is to stop blaming aviation, but start changing it. And the governments and public funds won’t help, so we need bold investors with a mission to help establishing the environment that allows us to work together on the common goal. Clean flying. Flying without remorse. Flying with a conscious mind.
We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade. And do the other things. Not because they are fashionable and easy, but because they must be done. But we can’t do it alone, we need investors that are interested in more than greenwashing their conscience, but the ones supporting the real thing. Investors that understand this is a big deal, it’s disruptive, it’s a journey. A journey that needs conviction, founders with the commitment and vision to make it happen…
I’ve started to write this as a part of my post on Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing, but I decided to take this into it’s own article and only summarize and refer to it. This article addresses the known ideas about clean flying and why I believe there is a lot of whitewashing and intentional delaying. But if you want to go carbon-neutral for a start, the technology is there. Even with the bureaucratic hurdles, we can start flying carbon-neutral within a matter of three to five years. The challenge is the speed we can secure the funding to build the necessary facilities.
Investors interested to turn aviation carbon-neutral, here is our reasoning which technology you should look at. And why helping us making this happen will be disruptive. Not because noone else could do it, but because to succeed you need the right people who want to do it, not the ones considering it disrupting their plans…
“But how about electric flying?” you might ask? Yes, how about it? In December 2013, a battery on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire. It was later attributed to a “design flaw”. Yes, Boeing had quite some trouble even before the MAX-disaster.
In 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7 batteries happened to explode. It was found that a manufacturing defect in the phones’ batteries had caused some of them to generate excessive heat, resulting in fires and explosions. And as much as they research possibilities, there are no ideas yet how you can “minimize” batteries (size and weight) further without risking them overheating. But given existing battery size and weight, the battery will only allow for very short flights with relatively few passengers. Commercial flying over two, three hours? You got to be kidding…
I find Zunum’s story (their jet pictured here) quite interesting. From Wikipedia: “In November 2020, Zunum Aero filed a lawsuit against Boeing alleging that Boeing tried “to gain access to proprietary information, intellectual property” and then used its dominance “to delay and then foreclose” Zunum’s operation, “in order to maintain its dominant position in commercial aviation by stifling competition”, using this proprietary information “to provide a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a different aircraft design” with Safran. Zunum said that Boeing tried to poach Zunum’s engineers.”
Electric Flight is a nice idea, but without a breakthrough in batteries, in my opinion it’ll be too inflexible a niche market and in best case need 10-20 years of active development to come up with a sizeable aircraft for mass transportation. And then there is the devastating ecological footprint of the mining of the needed Lithium, Nickel, “rare earths”, that experts expect to become a likely killer issue for Tesla – now thinking about battery-powered flying?
Many of you remember that back in 2008 I worked with investors and potential climate-sensitive customer we worked on a hydrogen-powered WIG (wing in ground). Combining the then existing research platform SeaFalcon with a common hydrogen-engine and refining hydrogen from solar power. Back in the days, we got a viability study funded to work out the business case based on Maldivian Air Taxi. Very successful business case in fact. Then came Lehman and we never further followed up on it, something I regret to date. Back 2009/10, we could have proved the business case for carbon-free flying.
But I also learned the downsides of Hydrogen, disabling it for large aircraft. Say what? Didn’t Airbus not just promote their vision of hydrogen-powered planes? Just the required cooling and/or pressure tanks for any sizeable aircraft sure is a challenge.
On the picture I found it interesting to see the focus on small aircraft and how much of that they already assume to be used for the hydrogen-tanks… Given Corona, I doubt they will give this the focus to keep the development timeline at 2030 (ten years). And I believe this is just another case like Boeing on e-flight, a means to proof failure to justify continuation of “dirty flying”. I doubt their managements real interest in clean flying!
Synkerosene – Hydrogen reloaded
Since I learned about Synfuel in early 2019, I understood that quickly as true impact, a disruptive technology. Given it’s “circular” nature, it will not provide “clean flying as quickly. But carbon-neutral flying and substantially less side products in the exhaust. Then I was surprised recently that Sunfire had secured a joint venture as Norsk e-Fuel, building an “industrial-sized facility” in Oslo. Okay, their annual output I learned is rather small, only 25% of what we assume as need for an all-synkerosene fleet at our bases, enough for seven regional aircraft.
But yes, we believe that given Synkerosene can transform all existing fleets in a matter of years. Starting with Synfuel for company cars, energy generators beyond emergency, but also as a buffer for the solar power needed for a 24/7 operation will require a large sized facility at our headquarters. Developing the plans and securing the funding for the large-sized facilities needed at the bases, we expect first bases to be 100% carbon neutral realistically within three to five years. But only, if we get it started. If we overcome lip-services, white- and greenwashing but join forces with investors interested doing the real deal.
Now back to the investor who told us this week that we’d not be innovative enough. I don’t care to be innovative. I want to use innovation available to make a change. A real one.
Challenge: Three years to the first carbon-free base. Ten years for all bases to be carbon-free. And looking at 10 years, this will be profitable development! Real IMPACT INVESTING.
The Truth About ZERO-Emission
Synkerosene is not emission-free. But even Airbus “Zero-Emission” is a lie! Sure there will be emissions, though using hydrogen, it will mostly by H2O, simple water.
Synkerosene is refined from hydrogen and carbondioxide (CO2 + H2). The chemical components of the engine exhaust must be researched and we expect a journey to further optimize the exhaust. Amateurish ideas are a catalyzer. I was also introduced to a team working on a contrail-free engine. If I understood that right, they use ammonia (NH3), but how that then impacts the high altitude atmosphere?
Yes, there are questions that will demand answering. But Synfuel is an answer available now. And it is definitely much better than the crude-oil product. Not only for aviation, but also for all those used cars with combustion engines around the world! And be real, the number of e-powered cars is rather limited, both e- and hydrogen-powered cars are quite a bit more expensive if you don’t build your own infrastructure.
There is a very strong force of inertia in aviation about turning “green”. Like other problems in aviation management, such as their disbelieve in branding, the resulting focus on “cheap” as the sole difference and a missing loyalty for partners and employees alike. that, plus missing USPs made airlines a running gag about ROI. But as in all other industries, you cannot expect change and disruptions with blind managers. You need vision.
A real impact investment, with managers that breath “impact” and commit themselves “naturally” to the U.N. SDGs will be countering the greed-driven likes of Ryanair or others, saving on the backs of their employees, their customers, the airports and regions they serve to maximize their evil impact. And their profits. Especially their senior managers’ profits. Everyone complains about Ryanair, then why do people fly them? Why do airports and regions fund their “semi-legal” (illegal) subsidy schemes? Why does no-one divest to stand up to them? Why don’t they name and shame them? Why still investing in them?
Or look at Lufthansa, securing for the group more than 10 billion bailout, grounding Germanwings as they’re too expensive, firing their staff aplenty, grounding airplanes. The bailouts multiple their worth before the crisis, what is left of the formerly proud crane? And guess, one day they have to repay all those debts. At least they use those with professional care. Will they invest into anything “sustainable”? Their government did not bother to require something like that. And accusing the pandemic, I was told they oppose the development of the Synkerosene-pilot in Hamburg. That being likely the reason the German-lead Joint-Venture to develop a first industrial-sized facility chose Oslo instead…?
But yes, at KOLIBRI.aero we have the understanding of the necessity to make an impact. To disrupt aviation to force them to become “green” and sustainable. And keep in mind that for decades, aviation was a growth market. And will be. The demand is there.
Impact Investment or Whitewashing – What is it?
I do believe that we will find family offices and may even trigger the interest of some of the institutional investors. Maybe even EU monetary bodies might understand the impact we can make. And different from existing players, we neither have Corona debts, nor do we have “hidden agendas” or different plans. We want to do this. Do you?
And if you’re no (real) impact investor reading this, but one of my many friends and followers, please share this.
I am very, very happy that I started speaking to Family Offices and regret that the Pandemic forced a reschedule of one event and kept me from attending another this week. But I am grateful to be allowed attending the first Family Office virtual conferences. It’s a rather steep learning curve. I am grateful for any event reference or invitation that I got and hopefully will still get.
Given today’s jabbering by the EU Commission (Mme. von der Leyen) that they – wow – will reduce the CO2 to 55% of the 1990-level … Oh wow? Shall I be impressed? Or cry? EU parliament would have been okay with 60% the news say. But even as is, this “deal” is full of small-print and not really worth the paper it’s written on.
We must be better to make an impact. And we better stop lip-services, white- and greenwashing but address the issues we can address today. Or this expert saying we’re way too late is right.
Though this is totally in line with my initial experience about “impact investing”. Lots of talk and lip services, with little substance too. Hard to find the ones that believe that this is something real.
And what industry is more in desperate need for a sustainability makeover. And having the chance for it?
Aviation Impact Investment
… a Barrel Burst?
While we have clear plans to become Carbon-Neutral in realistically in three to five years, you got to start. And an “impact investor” told me this week that we are too little innovative. Really?
The EU plans give airlines 15 more years to fly dirty. Yes, that is a barrel burst! You got to be kidding me. But sure, it’s completely in line with German and European aviation lobbying, managed well by Lufthansa, Ryanair and the likes. Lufthansa, the airline with the single-largest bailout package in Europe but with virtually no ties attached, especially none about job saving or evolution into turning “green” and flying clean(er). And in Hamburg I heard the synkerosene pilot suffered from disinterest by Lufthansa, aside of a single carbon-neutral flight by Lufthansa Cargo. A nice example of greenwashing!
I’ve summarized the possibilities to turn aviation carbon-neutral for a start (and what comes then) into another article Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal, which I publish simultaneously with this article. But the Future of Clean Aviation is Now. It just needs someone with a real interest to start the process. No talking, no lip-services, no whitewashing, but the real deal! With a real ROI.
Impact Investment in IT & AI … What Impact?
There is a lot of buzz ongoing about Impact Investment in IT and AI. Whereas I just wrote about Big Data & AI, feedback from family offices principals recently confirm my assumption. Of one emphasizing that ESG “tools” are usually a means to white- and greenwash family offices’ IT investments. And as I posted that on LinkedIn, got a lot of feedback from other family office principals that IT hardly makes a real impact by itself. It’s simply a profit-focused investment, mostly just improving existing processes or digitalizing them.
There also was a discussion this week about “decision making AI” or “decision support IT”. From my aviation background, I see IT as an important support tool. One that improves productivity, but more important safety. I do not see an IA-tool taking more than a supportive role at the time being. But I see a lot of claims that direction, which I can only consider white- and greenwashing.
It’s a Trust Thing
In my opinion, there is no “impact investing” if you don’t find the right managers with a mindset to leave the beaten path and find profitable developments in the industry. For KOLIBRI.aero we don’t just think about carbon-neutral aviation. Or some solar parks. We think beyond! We understand it’s our duty to make an impact. Investing into our people and the regions we serve. To foster gender equality, diversity and to develop a future beyond our own. In turn, KOLIBRI.aero addresses not two or three, but all 17 of the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals.
In the overall plans, there is one issue being in the U.N. SDGs and EU’s TEN-T, regional connectivity at affordable price. Going carbon-neutral is more important on that in our opinion, but there are obstacles that must be overcome, that is a journey. Decently paid, qualified jobs and ongoing, structured training to fight against poverty. Ideas aplenty on how to establish a disruptive airline, that shows how sustainable aviation can be. If you look outside the box. If you embrace “sustainability”, even the notoriously loss-making scapegoat aviation can change.
The Quick and Dirty
On the other side – and back to the topic of my previous article, Big Data and AI provide quick success stories. So much easier to use those for white- and greenwashing. But real impact investment may not be so sexy, it may take a longer breath. To turn around our world is a journey, no sprint. It’s why even UBS recently confirmed in a webinar that family offices are more likely the ones truly investing into impact. Because they think long-term. About family impact across generations. Not as politicos or banks or “institutional investors” and venture capitalists in quick, maximized returns, happily overlooking the negative impacts for an improved profitability.
… or The Neverending Story
A German investor this week told me: “There is too little change in what you’re doing.” That investor referred to either air taxi or hyperloop. Whereas I’ve often enough expressed my concerns about air traffic control taking individual mobility into the third dimension and into potential conflict with commercial (and military) aviation. Just thinking about the increasing drone-warnings disrupting airport operations the past year. That is a very long way to go.
The same for hyperloop, which may connect high-density routes, similar to (German) Transrapid in China. Will this be more successful? The concept is around for more than half a century. And I don’t like the pipes over ground, even Roger Leloup planned them underground. I’ve written more than a year ago in the #flygskam Reality Check about it and about the so much smaller footprint an airport has.
… Academic Thinking – Research Forever
Global CO2 emissions dropped by 7%, with 11% in Europe due to Corona. Especially aviation reduced due to the lockdown by 22% global, some regions by 30%. But those are expected to come back quickly (Source).
Now the EU says it turns the European Investment Bank into a Climate Bank. And they will focus on research. Or to give the dinosaurs a facelift. Maybe it makes more sense to look for ideas to apply the research results to the real world? Why is it that German Transrapid only runs in China, European Skype is now U.S. Microsoft, the first industrial Synkerosene-facility is being build in Norway (EU associated)? Examples aplenty. We research but we’re utterly incompetent turning research into practical products.
People should take rail the politicos wrote. Yeah, I can see Merkel spending a day to travel from Berlin to Brussels. An interesting LinkedIn post, and German Tagesschau reports “Strategy falls short of what is possible and necessary”. A carbon-neutral aviation we plan on existing technological solutions for 2025, latest 2027 for Kolibri and by 2030 operating +200 aircraft carbon-neutral.
It’s embarrassing! Why does everyone find reasons not to invest in large-scale change? No, it is not quick, requires industrial site funding, but it’s about real change! Which in turn would apply pressure on the “establishment” to get their butts up and move. Get out of your comfort zone and make a change.
And whoops again. But they work with Black Rock, a company with a very bad reputation, funding most of the dirty stocks in the world. But on the other side, Black Rock may have started their journey to change? Maybe the money divested may be well invested into those change makers?
Corona is a testing time for about everybody. But also an opportunity for new methods and thinking to rise.
Impact Investment for better ROI!
Though also notable, there is a bad misinterpretation that impact investment would mean low ROI. I think our business concept for Kolibri is looking at very competitive ROI at a residual risk below other investments. But it is so much easier to accuse impact investment to justify one owns look the other direction, right?
Impact Investment ain’t Philanthropy. Invest into the future and benefit from it!
And as real impact investment gains support and more and more investors look at their investment portfolio and clear out the dirt, suddenly your “max-ROI”-investment in crude oil, guns or other “bad investments” will turn foul on you. Investment into the main investor in “bad business”, namely Black Rock will backfire on your own reputation. So Black Rock will likely recognize the headwinds and start divesting too? Not to be caught in the fray.
Funds, Indices, Shares or what?
Well, it’s always easy to invest into existing business. Buying in on indices or major shares, you don’t need to understand anything beyond their “performance” and “marketing message”. If they wash well enough, they might appear shining green or white, right?
As if we did not learn the very recent lessons from German Property Group, Wirecard? On a report that week, a Shortseller mentioned that the higher the interests and dividends, the likelier they are on a rush against the wall. So they look at those stocks first. As do greedy investors…
My very personal experience includes working for a company that became one of the “New Market winners” when they entered the stock market. Happened, after a short flash in the pan, they ended up a penny stock.
The “typical” aviation investment is aircraft funds. Whereas KPMG valued them at an average 4% return in 2019, look at all those assets now. Liabilities in most cases, because they had and have no USP. And even back in 2019, the big aircraft lessors being well established with the airlines made good returns, but many funds also underperformed or failed completely.
Shareholder value got a very bad reputation, didn’t it? As if all shareholders would believe in Max-ROI? How about some long-term benefits, how about impact, sustainability and a return that is above the inflation rate and what your bank pays? But that is to my experience and observations the normal “manager type” our world suffers from. Maximizing the own short-term remuneration and bonuses, leaving a wreck behind. Back to IT-investments?
… or what?
Especially thinking about impact investment, we need long-term thinking. Something bank managers, institutional investors and venture capitalists fail to provide. We need people thinking in decades, in generations. We need Family Offices, private investors. And we need company managers, entrepreneurs, founders thinking not in three years at max ROI, but in 10 years and a real ROI, including but beyond monetary. Maybe at a much better ROI than those straw-fire-startups burn up?
What Impact Do You Target?
What’s the “Impact” you want to make? Is Tesla truly the future? Or is it more hydrogen? How about impact on poverty? Why not investing in “developing countries”, poor countries? Giving them the infrastructure and tools to develop themselves. Another German history lesson. While the leading industry nations cannibalized German technology, machines, entire factories, it left a void in it’s wake. A void that was filled with the help of the Marshall Plan leading Germany into the Wirtschaftswunder.
The investments back in those days did nottarget the surviving companies, but enabled startups. The remains of those funds are known as KfW, Germany’s Bank for Reconstruction.
Impact vs. Whitewashing
My final topic today is to take a look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or U.N. SDGs.
Good Health & Wellbeing = biotech, right? Every biotech something claims to be SDG3, even the pharma-giants o chem-giant BASF.
Or Decent work and economic growth also used a lot for good argument to be “sustainable”. The Real Estate industry talks a lot about their focus on 9 and 11. Those are just the ones I see a lot “abused”. But also tech companies claiming sustainable under 3 ,4, 5 and 10… Be careful if someone tells you they’d be “sustainable” under consideration of the SDGs.
I like the approach of some family offices very much, that they qualify the real impact. Over time, what is the change. Targets, Milestones. And understanding that real change takes real efforts.
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