Use of biodiesel on aircraft has become an increasingly more popular notion with airlines and the public alike, as the world looks to make a shift to a cleaner energy future. The airline industry is notorious for its high carbon emissions, but with the introduction of biofuel, it seems to provide the perfect platform for a growth in industry, coupled with more sustainable practices .
Alaska airlines has been the most recent and notable example of commercial airlines using biofuel to operate their aircraft. Their push to use biofuel now is counter to sound economic practices for the company, as the costs of biofuel are over 5 times more expensive than regular jet fuel . Still, companies are starting to realize more and more that there is great potential in this industry, and it very well may lead the way as the central fuel source for aircraft in the coming decades.
The long held argument against biofuels was that they require far too much water and land to be farmed in quantities capable of sustaining the planet’s current needs . This argument was based on data derived from the production of corn for ethanol; corn, however, is certainly not the only source from which biofuels can be harvested.
Scientists are now researching the feasibility of producing halophytes, to be converted into biofuels. Halophytes are plants that can be grown in a wide array of different climate conditions, with the great benefit being that they can be sustained using ocean saltwater, as opposed to freshwater . With the world facing large scale drought issues, having a plant that can grow using saltwater and be used to power aircraft would be a huge step forward environmentally.
As the world becomes ever more globalized and connected, the use of, and reliance upon aircraft will continue to increase. Issues with emissions are well founded and need addressing, however airline companies have to worry about costs as well, which often run counter to environmental concerns. Now, however, with the increased feasibility of biofuels, the airline industry could spawn the growth of a new, biofuel harvesting industry. Moreover, as more countries begin to levy high taxes on carbon emissions, biofuels will likely prove to become a cost effective means of powering aircraft, as opposed to an overly priced alternative.