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Fri, Mar 19, 2010

Commercial Airlines May Rely Heavily On Biofuels by 2020

Concerns Raised The Feedstocks Will Compete With Land Used For Farming Food

Airlines will likely fly using fuel made from plant sources rather than petroleum-based jet fuel within the next 10 years. The forecast was made during the World Biofuels Markets conference held this week in Amsterdam.

But not everyone is thrilled at the prospects of the airlines "going green". The Associated Press reports that the Global Forest Coalition, which is an alliance of several environmental groups, fears the demand for fuel stocks will cause more rapid destruction of the tropical rain forest, and could also cause crops raised for fuel to compete for farmland with crops raised for food.

The aviation community at the conference said that the industry is concentrating on fuel stocks that have a minimal effect on the environment. Some, like camelina, are used as a "rotation crop" in Europe and North America to add nutrients back to depleted soil. And one airline, British Airways, is part of a pilot project that would create jet fuel from waste that would otherwise wind up in a landfill.

Several airlines have already tested a mix of biofuels and standard jet fuel on trans-Atlantic flights. Boeing Environmental Spokesman Terrance Scott said there are projects that seek to create fuel from plants that grow in salt water. Other companies are exploring a certain algae that produces a burnable fuel as a waste by-product. Scott said biofuels are likely to be approved for commercial use by the end of the year.

FAA representative Mark Rumizen said "We have developed advanced biofuels that are safe and can be grown in a sustainable manner."  And IATA's Thomas Roetger said that "everything looks promising" for biofuels to possibly largely replace petroleum-based fuels within the next decade.

The European Union has mandated that all flights into and out of European airports will be subject to the European carbon trading program, a "Cap and Trade" type program for carbon credits, by 2012.

FMI: www.worldbiofuelsmarkets.com

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