Your next cross-country flight, powered by the residue from your frying pan? Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will test biofuels on commercial flights starting this week, hoping to usher in a new, environmentally friendly era for jet fuel.

Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, will use a 20 percent blend of biofuel — made from used cooking oil — on selected flights between their home base of Seattle and Washington, D.C. and Portland, Ore., starting this Wednesday.

Biofuels have already been tested by airlines overseas, and Alaska says the blend it’s using meet “rigorous international safety and sustainability standards.”

“This is a historic week for U.S. aviation. The 75 flights that Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air will fly over the next few weeks reflect our longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility and our belief that sustainable biofuels are key to aviation’s future,” says Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer in a news release announcing the program.

Ayer continued: “Commercial airplanes are equipped and ready for biofuels. They will enable us to fly cleaner, foster job growth in a new industry, and can insulate airlines from the volatile price swings of conventional fuel to help make air travel more economical. What we need is an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply. To the biofuels industry, we say: If you build it, we will buy it.”

Key will be the development of regional supply chains, and “that takes supportive government policies that encourage investment in the early stages of this emerging sector,” says Billy Glover, vice president for  environment and aviation policy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

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  • chuck goolsbee

    Given the simplicity of the jet engine over the modern Otto- or Diesel-cycle internal combustion engine and their post-combustion scrubbing systems, there should be absolutely no reason why this should present any problems. The exhaust will be far cleaner, and carbon-neutral – at least at whatever percentage ratio of biofuel to petroleum blend used. Given the volume of cooking oil used in this country, it should go a long way towards stretching out the supply of petroleum in the world by supplementing it with a renewable. A renewable that is now on its SECOND use.

    This is NOT a “food vs fuel” issue (the feedstock has already served the food cycle, and is now waste), nor is it a “petroleum replacement” scheme – just a very reasonable method of extending the supply of petroleum further into the future.

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