United Airlines will become the first domestic airline to fly a regular U.S. route using alternative fuel this summer.
According to the New York Times, the first flight will take off from Los Angeles and land in San Francisco using a biofuel “generated from farm waste and oils derived form animal fats.” From then on, four to five flights per day will carry a fuel mix that is 30 percent biofuel, the rest traditional jet fuel, before United will blend it into its overall supply.
The flight is considered a milestone, one that United hopes will lead to integrating more biofuels into its future, the Times reports. In 2013, United agreed to purchase biofuel from California-based AltAir Fuels to help power its flights from LAX to San Francisco. This week, the airline also announced a new $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy, a California-based company that turns household trash into biofuel.
Or course, air travel consumes large quantities of fuel and contributes to carbon emissions, something the Solar Impulse 2 flight around the world is trying to raise awareness about — using renewable energy for flight. While we may be a long way from solar-powered plane technology becoming feasible for commercial airlines, biofuel is a legitimate stepping stone — one that will reduce emissions and hopefully lower costs for airlines. Fulcrum says its biofuel can cut carbon emissions by up to 80 percent and eventually get the cost of a gallon of biofuel to under a buck, Fulcrum’s CEO told the Times.
They also report that Alaska Airlines plans to use biofuels in at least one airport by 2020, and Southwest will buy about 3 million gallons from wood residues from Red Rock Biofuels that will go into use by 2016.
Here’s to the eco-friendly skies.