With the spotlight on climate change, the focus often lands on renewable energy. However, synthetic petroleum could be the missing link in our quest for net-zero emissions. By mimicking the composition of natural petroleum, scientists are creating fuels that are not only cleaner but also compatible with existing infrastructure. This could fill the energy gaps where renewables fall short, such as in aviation or heavy industries, enabling a smoother transition to a carbon-neutral future. As synthetic petroleum technologies mature, they might just be the bridge we need to achieve our climate goals.
At one time biofuels were hailed as the solution, but as Anna Krajinska from the Brussels-based cleaner-transport campaign Transport & Environment points out, there just isn’t enough capacity, particularly with growing pressures on food production. ‘If we then scale up the use of those crops, for production of fuels for shipping or aviation, that situation is only going to get worse [and] when you take into account the additional indirect carbon dioxide emissions, from land use change, for example, [biofuels are] no better for the environment than using fossil-based fuels.’