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Surprising Science

Biofuel Boom in Aviation

Due to carbon laws, European airline carriers are placing orders for biofuels. Last week, for the first time, a jumbo jet used a blend of biofuel and kerosene on a transatlantic flight. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Last week, a Boeing 747 made history by flying across the Atlantic with all four of its engines powered by hydroprocessed oil from camelina, a biofuels crop. The European airline carriers KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa, Germany’s national carrier, also plan to use hydroprocessed oils as their biofuel source. European regulation limiting carbon emissions have increased demand for biofuels in the aviation industry. “Environmental groups say biofuels make sense for aviation, since they are the sector’s only alternative to petroleum.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Are biofuels a realistic alternative for the aviation industry at a time with use of ethanol blends are being blamed for rising food prices worldwide? Yes they are, according to author Peter Fairley: “Camelina can be grown on wheat fields during periods when the fields would otherwise be left fallow, and thus shouldn’t drive up food prices. And because the crop can be grown on existing fields, it can also avoid undesirable land use changes, such as the deforestation associated with palm oil cultivation in Southeast Asia.”


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