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OSLO (Reuters) - Oslo airport is importing renewable jet fuel made from waste cooking oil in California, stirring criticism that shipping and trucking it more than 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) undercuts environmental benefits.
Oslo was the first international airport hub to offer biofuels as part of the fuel mix it sells in 2016, followed by Los Angeles and Stockholm, as part of efforts to limit surging greenhouse gas emissions in the airline industry.
"This is a tiny little drop (in fossil jet fuel use). But it is the first drop," said Olav Mosvold Larsen of state-owned Avinor, which runs 45 airports in Norway. He said jet biofuels were twice the cost of conventional fuels.
The jet fuel blend sold for planes in Oslo now has 0.2 percent biofuels in the test project, he told Reuters. So far, Avinor has bought 1.25 million liters (275,000 UK gallons) of biofuels.
In recent months, Avinor has imported waste cooking oil, sold by AltAir in California from sources including fast food restaurants, he said, confirming a report in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. Last year, Oslo's biofuels came from Spain.
Some environmentalists say that shipping biofuels from California, via the Panama Canal, makes no sense.
"This is madness," said Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace, saying that European laws should do more to promote local production of biofuels, such as from Nordic forests. "Waste cooking oil should be used in California," he said.
Larsen said there were net environmental benefits. The greenhouse gas emissions for shipping a liter of biofuel from California to Sweden, and then trucking it to Norway, were a fraction of those from burning a liter of conventional jet fuel.
Aviation accounts for about two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions of a country such as Canada or Mexico, and is expanding fast, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Norway's parliament will debate on June 19 whether to oblige jet fuel sold in Norway to have one percent biofuels from 2019. That would be equivalent to about 11 million liters (2.4 million UK gallons) a year.
Scandinavian Airlines System [SASSA.UL] said the plans could push up costs unless matched by other nations. "Extra taxation is limiting our possibility to invest in biofuels and take steps for a sustainable future," said spokesman Knut Morten Johansen.
Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Tom Heneghan