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.