Biofuel-powered plane rides may be in our future much sooner than anticipated if Boeing gets its way. The company expects to see approval for commercial use of biofuels in the next 3 to 5 years.
Planes will probably run on a blend of 30% biofuel, since there isn’t enough biofuel available to completely supply an industry that uses 85 billion gallons of kerosene each year. Use of the biofuel blend won’t require modification to current aircraft.
The issue of biofuel availability is a big one— fueling the 13,000 commercial planes in operation with soya bean-based fuel would require a land mass the size of Europe.
Fortunately, newer biofuels might alleviate the problem of using arable land for fuel production. Solazyme recently announced that it has produced the world’s first algae-based jet fuel. But since algae fuel could take longer than 3 to 5 years for mass production, we may have to wait a bit before seeing truly sustainable airplane biofuel take off.
Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.