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SEATTLE â€” Alaska Airlines will fly 75 commercial passenger flights in the United States powered by biofuel, starting this Wednesday. These flights signal aviation's next era, where sustainable biofuels can provide a viable alternative to conventional fuel and enable airlines to reduce their environmental impact.
Two maiden biofuel-powered flights will leave Seattle on Nov. 9 for Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore. Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, will continue to operate select flights between Seattle and the two cities over the next few weeks using a 20 percent blend of sustainable biofuel made from used cooking oil that meets rigorous international safety and sustainability standards.
“This is a historic week for U.S. aviation. The 75 flights that Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air will fly over the next few weeks reflect our longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility and our belief that sustainable biofuels are key to aviation’s future,” Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer said. “Commercial airplanes are equipped and ready for biofuels. They will enable us to fly cleaner, foster job growth in a new industry, and can insulate airlines from the volatile price swings of conventional fuel to help make air travel more economical. What we need is an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply. To the biofuels industry, we say: If you build it, we will buy it.”
Alaska Air Group’s fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s are one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient among domestic airlines. Air Group has also led the industry with a variety of environmental projects to fly greener — from pioneering satellite-based navigation procedures to onboard recycling. But industry leaders agree that biofuels represent a critical element in cutting aviation’s carbon footprint.
“Aviation clearly needs a clean energy alternative to fossil fuels,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy Billy Glover. “In the U.S. and around the world, the industry is doing all it can to support sustainable biofuel development and maintain aviation’s role in global economic growth. To make that happen we must develop regional supply chains, and that takes supportive government policies that encourage investment in the early stages of this emerging sector.”
Alaska Air Group estimates the 20 percent certified biofuel blend it is using for the 75 flights will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 10 percent, or 134 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road for a year. If the company powered all of its flights with a 20 percent biofuel blend for one year, the annual emissions savings would represent the equivalent of taking nearly 64,000 cars off the road or providing electricity to 28,000 homes.
“Tomorrow’s fuels are ready to be used in today’s airplanes and that’s an important step forward,” said Philippe Poutissou, vice president of marketing for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “Our industry already designs aircraft that reduce the environmental footprint. We continue to strive for sustainable solutions and greener skies.”
The fuel was supplied by SkyNRG, an aviation biofuels broker, and made by Dynamic Fuels, a producer of next-generation renewable, synthetic fuels made from used cooking oil. The synthetic high-performance airliner fuel made by Dynamic Fuels — a $170 million joint-venture between Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) and Syntroleum Corp. (NASDAQ: SYNM) — meets aviation and military safety, sustainability and performance standards.
“Advanced biofuels can be an economic driver in creating good jobs and a vital part of America’s long-term energy security,” said Bob Ames, Tyson Foods’ vice president of renewable energy and member of the Dynamic Fuels management committee. “However, government policies supporting development are essential to ensure that the aviation biofuels industry reaches its full potential and is able to compete against foreign petroleum.”
Alaska’s commercial biofuel flights come six months after Air Group partnered in a strategic initiative calledwww. Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN), a 10-month regional stakeholder effort to explore the feasibility, challenges and opportunities for creating an aviation biofuels industry in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The study determined the region has the diverse stocks for biofuels, delivery infrastructure and political will needed to create a viable biofuels industry. There currently is no supply of aviation biofuels in the Pacific Northwest.