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Nearly four months after European airlines began experimenting with sustainable jet fuel, several US airlines are following in their eco-friendly footsteps.

On 9 November, Alaska Air and Horizon Airlines began testing the use of bio-fuel made from cooking oil that has been discarded by restaurants. Two days earlier, Continental made US aviation history when one if its flights between Houston and Chicago was the first powered by bio-fuel made from plants. Also on 7 November, United Airlines announced it will begin buying 20 million gallons of bio-fuel a year.

European airlines such as Finnair, Lufthansa, KLM and Thomson Airways started experimenting with the use of biomass fuel in July.

Environmentalists praise the use of biodegradable products like corn and sugar in fuel because they are renewable sources of energy. Unlike jet fuel, bio-fuel doesn’t release carbon dioxide at 30,000ft, which can melt sea ice and disrupt fish populations, among other effects.

Don’t expect to bio-fuel to become an industry standard for several years, though, as high cost is a major hurdle for airlines. Alaska Airlines told National Public Radio reporters that its “bio-fuel costs nearly six times as much as conventional jet fuel.” Continental and United indicated they face similar high costs. When manufactured in enough volume, it may be far cheaper than oil, but in the meantime, bio-fuel production is still a baby industry.

 

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