Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=111379
Story Retrieval Date: 12/4/2013 6:17:07 PM CST
MEDILL file photo
• An alternative to crude oil for fuel
• Can be produced from vegetation that grows on land or in water
• Anything that can be burned from a biological source
• A family of fuels created from multiple sources
• When executed correctly, can take the place of gasoline without the need for engine alterations
• Most efficient in terms of sustainability when materials are used that don’t disturb land or food sources.
Mom might not have been so far off when she told you to eat your vegetables.
The vegetables in this case, however, are finding their way into alternative fuels, known as biofuels.
And the development of biofuel is on the rise, so much so that industry experts predict 25 percent of all aircraft will run on biofuel by 2025.
Continental Airlines was the first to put biofuel to the test last Wednesday, with a two-hour test flight out of Houston.
Jet Blue Airlines is also looking at alternative biofuels, specifically algae and jatropha, the same fuel sources used in the Continental test.
The reason these fuels are so popular is that they are “second generation biofuels … so it doesn’t interfere with food supply,” said Bryan Baldwin, manager of corporate communications for Jet Blue.
“The issue is not so much whether the stock is edible, as in corn and sugarcane, but whether it uses arable land and water that displaces other food crops,” said David C. Dunand, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University.
The idea of biofuel is to find a substance that is renewable that does not take away from a food source or fluctuate with the cost of food prices.
“This [biofuel] is something that we should all be looking at and investigating,” Baldwin said. He added that this is why Jet Blue and its partners believe that any development that they come up with will be something they want to make available to the entire industry.
Jet Blue will make its first test flight, just as Continental Airlines has done at the end of this year. If biofuel for aircrafts takes hold and crude oil can be replaced, the question begging to be answered is: Will there be a savings to consumers?
“Anything we can do to keep our operating costs low,” Baldwin said, “we can pass on to customers.”