Starting this week, Alaska Airlines will fly 75 commercial passenger flights on a fuel blend that consists of 20% biofuels. The fuel was supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels company, and made by Dynamic Fuels, a producer of 'next-generation' fuels made from used cooking oil. The fuel blend meets aviation and military safety, environmental, and performance standards, and unlike most biodiesel, it can be mixed with petroleum-based fuel and transported in existing pipelines.
Because this is only for 75 flights, the total impact will be rather small - the equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road for a year - but if the airline powered all of its flights with a 20% biofuel blend for one year, the annual emissions reductions would equal taking about 64,000 cars off the road or providing electricity to 28,000 homes. And if this was ramped up to a higher ratio blend, and if more airlines did the same, well.. The impact would start to become pretty significant!
Aviation biofuels are especially important to develop because flying will stick with energy-dense liquid fuels for the foreseeable future, unlike other forms of transportation which can more easily transition to electric motors and batteries or hypercapacitors. It's still best to fly as little as possible, but the flights that do happen should be powered by carbon-neutral fuels.
Our very own Brian Merchant will be on board the Alaska Airlines biofuel maiden flight on Wednesday and will have a chance to talk to the experts, so expect more details on this soon. What I'd most like to know is how high the blend can be pushed (any reason why they can't do 100% biofuels?), and how fast can production of it ramp up so that it can replace petroleum-based fuel?