Recently, Virgin Airlines garnered a lot of support and criticism for their announcement that they would be experimenting with biofuels. Now, Air New Zealand has annoucned that it will begin testing a new generation of biofuel this year. With the goal of converting a portion of its domestic fleet to run on the renewable fuel source within five years, the airline will be the first in the world to test a biofuel derived from jatropha, a bush grown in India that produces seeds with a high oil content.
An airline spokesperson commented that early tests showed biofuels cost about half the price of normal aviation fuel and produced half of the environmental emissions. Of course, regulators will have to approve the fuel for “safety” before they can officially convert the fleet, but rising prices for aviation fuel and falling support of the airline industry are spurring the search for an alternative.
This is just a preliminary step and is in a research phase. Alternatives to the jatropha plant, such as algae, exist. Not to mention, availability and infrastructure for international as well as domestic flights doesn’t currently exist and won’t until airlines and fueling companies are able to reach an agreement.
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