Does United’s Biofuel Purchase From AltAir Fuels Make a Difference?

Biofuels are another one of the hot topics in aviation right now which makes sense since fuel has become one of the biggest costs for airlines to operate.  The problem is that they are too expensive to refine, and they just aren’t processed in the quantities that make it cost-effective for the airlines.

That being said, strides are being made in biofuels, and while they may never replace petroleum-based diesel fuel, their development can make a huge difference across the industry.  As evidence of this, United Airlines just signed an agreement to buy 15 million gallons of biofuel from AltAir Fuels.

The fuel will be used on flights out of LAX starting in 2014 and is expected to create a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  While 15 million gallons is a drop in the bucket for United, it is certainly a large drop.  What may be the most interesting aspect of the purchase agreement is that they will be buying the fuel at a price that is competitive with traditional jet fuel.

If airlines are able to purchase these fuels at a competitive price, while reducing emissions, and getting to say they are environmentally friendly, then why wouldn’t they?

One of the other great things about this purchase is that AltAir is taking over an idle area of a diesel refinery.  So now that area can get retrofitted and provide a valuable resource to the aviation industry.

Do you think biofuels provide a legitimate alternative to traditional jet fuels, or is it just not possible to produce them in the quantities necessary to support the industry?  Does this purchase by United mean anything in the grand scheme of things, or is it just a small drop in the bucket?