There is a very interesting article on the Aviation Week website that talks about biofuels, and how numerous airlines have started using biofuels in various ways. Some airlines have flown single flights, or flights with one engine running biofuel. Lufthansa has done by far the most testing which was aided largely by funding from the German government.
Right now, biofuel is way too expensive for it to be reasonable for airlines to use on a regular basis. That is largely due to the fact that its development is being done almost exclusively by the airlines and their partners. For biofuels to really take off they will need a tremendous amount of government support.
Traditional jet fuel has been produced for decades so all of the infrastructure already exists. Biofuels on the other hand will need new facilities where they can be refined and developed to the level that the fuels we use now already are. Maybe even more difficult than that, there will have to be a concerted effort to grow more of the feedstock needed to generate these fuels.
While growing this feedstock may be the simplest way to go about generating biofuels, they simply are not grown in the yield necessary to support commercial endeavors. The other choice is to refine the waste from agriculture, forest residues, and municipal solid waste, but it is no further along than any other biofuel.
Airlines don’t have the time or money to do the development themselves. Governments will have to step up to build the infrastructure and support the development of these fuels. I say governments because this is not something that can be accomplished by the US or any other single government.
The rising cost of fuel is something that is crippling the aviation industry more than maybe any other sector of the economy. As the cost of fuel rises, the cost of buying airline tickets, the cost of shipping cargo, and therefore the cost of almost everything will continue to rise.
Everyone knows that governments around the world have plenty of economic issues to deal with, and they will likely be hesitant to invest much money in ventures like this. However, they are making a huge mistake by neglecting this area.
What they are missing is the number of jobs that could be created in numerous different industries if there was government funding backing it. Research and development would be an ongoing need, not to mention the refineries themselves.
We keep hearing about the government wanting to create jobs, investing in industries that will sustain the economy, not just put a band-aid on it. However, they continue to throw money at industries that use the money and end up with no real value.
If all of the billions of dollars that were spent to stimulate the economy had actually created jobs we would hear a lot more about those jobs. Instead, we get vague reports about how the economy is improving without any real information about how or why it is.
Biofuels are an industry that could do wonders for the airline industry, and ultimately any industry that relies on gas to get the job done. But if that dream is ever to become a reality, it will take a commitment of money and regulatory support to make it happen.
Do you think biofuels are a worthwhile endeavor, or would it be a waste of money, time, and effort in the long run?