In a bid to reduce greenhouse gases, United Airlines will start using fuel generated from animal poop and fat this summer. This will be the first time a domestic airline uses alternative jet fuel to power a regular passenger flight.
The first flight to be powered from farm waste and oils derived from animal fats will take off from Los Angeles and land in San Francisco. United Airlines will then make four to five flights a day between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Passengers shouldn’t be able to notice anything different during their flights.
The jet fuel will contain about 30% biofuel produced by the firm AltAir Fuels and 70% traditional fuel. The airline will eventually integrate the biofuels into their overall supply. United Airlines also announced a $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy, one of the leading producers of alternative fuels.
“We know alternative fuels is an emerging industry that is vital to the future of aviation and this is just one of our initiatives to help make these fuels saleable and scalable,” Brett Hart, United Airlines’ executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “Investing in alternative fuels is not only good for the environment, it's a smart move for our company as biofuels have the potential to hedge against future oil price volatility and carbon regulations.”
Fulcrum suggests their technology can reduce the airline’s carbon emissions by 80% compared to traditional jet fuel. And Fulcrum believes they can do this in a cost-effective way, telling the New York Times that their biofuel could cost “a lot less than” $1 a gallon. United Airlines said its deal with Fulcrum was “competitive.”
Aircrafts contribute significantly to climate change, currently accounting for around 2% of global carbon emissions. Many airlines are now being pressured to turn to biofuels to reduce their carbon footprint. Environmentalists have pushed for the wider use of alternative fuels in aviation, but certain barriers – such as cost and difficulty of large-scale production – have hampered efforts.
United Airlines’ announcement follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. airplanes. The New York Times reports that Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and British Airways have all announced plans to move towards biofuels in the near future.
[H/T: The Verge]