Green Fuels for Jets; March 2009; Scientific American Earth 3.0; by Larry Greenemeier; 2 Page(s)
More and more frequent fliers are wringing their hands over the fact that airplanes emit greenhouse gases where they can do the most damage¿high in the atmosphere. Airline companies, meanwhile, are increasingly wary of their dependence on overseas oil for fuel. Those concerns, plus the possibility that jet-fuel prices could again spike as they did in 2008, have prompted a spate of test flights powered by biofuels: planes flying on the energy-rich extracts of flowering plants, weeds and pond scum. The environmental appeal is that the growing plants absorb as much carbon dioxide as is released when their oils are burned.
Planting to Fly
On January 30 Japan Airlines flew a Boeing 747 for 90 minutes using a fuel made primarily from camelina¿a flowering stalk that grows several feet tall¿and small amounts of other plant oils. The blend came from Sustainable Oils in Bozeman, Mont., a joint venture of biotech firm Targeted Growth and Green Earth Fuels. Camelina can be grown without harming the soil on wheat fields when they would otherwise be left fallow.