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Making Planes Run on Bio-Fuel

by Eva Holland Oct 26, 2008

A team of scientists in North Dakota has successfully created jet fuel from plant oils, Scientific American reports, and the resulting product is “indistinguishable from the conventional kind.”

I’ve been waiting for this news for a long time.

Of course, a reduction of our consumption levels is the first step, and of course, bio-fuels aren’t perfect by any means. But every time I read another article about how we all need to stop flying, I think to myself: Isn’t anybody doing something to make commercial flight less harmful?!

Sure, I’ll cut down on short-haul flights that could easily be replaced by a few hours on a train or bus. And sure, even for longer hauls I’ll go overland sometimes when I have the time and means. But, even setting aside my personal travel ambitions, I’ve got family spread out from Nova Scotia to the Yukon to Arizona. There’s no way I can quit my flight habit entirely.

Scientific American has the details on the project, as well as the other ongoing efforts at creating plant-based jet fuel. And as for the future of the project?

“The thing that needs to happen is a purchase order to come through from the Air Force so we can get [the] investment to build that first plant,” said the CEO of another company, hard at work on jet fuel made from algae scum.

“We could get a plant operational in two to five years if there were a commitment to buy the fuel.”

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