Alaska Airlines recently completed 75 passenger flights running on a 20% biofuel blend made with reclaimed cooking oil. Once we learned this fuel blend met aviation and military safety, environmental, and performance standards we breathed a huge sigh of relief. And this, right after some airlines decided to go electric when taxiing.
The fuel is supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels company, and is made by Dynamic Fuels. Unlike other biodiesel, it can be mixed with petroleum-based fuel and transported in pipelines. The development of biodiesel blends for aviation is a huge step forward because airplanes are still going to rely on energy-dense liquid fuels for the near future. Electricity or batteries just aren't options for powering flight.
The initial impact on the environment is still pretty small — the 75 flights save the equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road for the year. Even still, green technology pundits feel positive that if entire fleets of airlines convert to partial biodiesel the reduction in the carbon footprint could be significant. If that were 75 planes using the mixture for all their flights, for instance, the numbers would be far more significant.
Plus, as suppliers further work on the biofuel blend, it is possible that higher ratios of the cooking oil to petroleum fuel could be refined. The higher the ratio of cooking oil, the more carbon neutral airline flights could become, further advancing the "greening" of America's skies.
So the next time you reach for that french fry, feel good knowing that in the cycle of life you will be helping a plane take off somewhere in Alaska!