Is Your Airline Going Green With Biofuel?

Published: 07-15-2015
Airlines are turning to biofuel for financial and environmental benefits.

A recent study by U.S. scientists reveals that environmental changes caused by carbon emission may be costing airlines millions of dollars while wasting millions of gallons of fuel.

If the regulatory pressure for airlines to reduce carbon emission wasn’t already enough motivation, a dent in their wallets may quicken the process.

According to the study, wavy jet streams caused by increased carbon emissions into the atmosphere are slowing down planes and creating longer flight times. This has led to a problematic cycle where airlines are burning more fuel due to climate change, which contributes to more carbon emission, thus further exacerbating the problem.

According to the study’s lead author, Kris Karnauskas, “Upper level wind circulation patterns are the major factor in influencing flight times...Longer flight times mean increased fuel consumption by airliners. The consequent additional input of CO2 into the atmosphere can feed back and amplify emerging changes in atmospheric circulation."

Along with the financial ramifications, added pressure from the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution has resulted in airlines turning to biofuel as a solution to both problems.

This past June, United Airlines announced a $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy, one of the leaders in aviation biofuels. The announced investment was the largest so far in alternative fuels by a domestic airline.

Fulcrum said their biofuel technology can reduce an airline’s carbon emission by 80 percent, while costing under $1 per gallon -- much lower than the $2.11 per gallon United paid in the first quarter.

United is one of the many airlines that have partnered with biofuel companies in recent years, including Alaska Airlines and British Airways. This summer, a United Airlines flight is scheduled to fly from LAX and San Francisco using “fuel generated from farm waste and oils derived from animal fats.”

With airlines becoming one of the fastest-growing contributors to carbon emission, they are looking to make major changes and focus on a greener future.

According to the New York Times: “Commercial airlines have already voluntarily committed to limit the growth of their carbon emissions to 2 percent a year through 2020, then cap emission growth after that. By 2050, the industry hopes to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to half of their 2005 levels, according to the International Air Transport Association.”


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