US airline uses alcohol to power flights

Alaska Airlines operated the two biofuel flights (credit: Vacclav)
Alaska Airlines operated the two biofuel flights (credit: Vacclav)

An airline in the US has launched its first flights powered by a new type of jet fuel made from alcohol.

Two Alaska Airlines jets departed Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Tuesday (7 June 2016) with their fuel tanks partially filled with the first alcohol-based fuel made from sustainable corn. One of the services operated to San Francisco, while the other flew across the US to Washington DC.

The jet fuel was produced by Gevo, which specialises in renewable technologies and biofuels.

“Alaska is committed to doing its part to reduce its carbon emissions. Advancing the use of alternative jet fuels is a key part of our emission reduction strategy,” said Joseph Sprague, the airline’s senior vice president of communications & external relations. “Gevo’s jet fuel product is an important step forward, in that it has the potential to be scalable and cost effective, without sacrificing performance.”

Alaska Airlines estimates that using a 20% biofuel blend for the two flights will have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by around 50%. And if the airline were able to replace 20% of its entire fuel supply at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2 – equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

The alcohol flights mark the latest phase in Alaska Airlines’ sustainable fuel strategy; in 2011 the company became the first US airline to operate multiple commercial passenger flights using a biofuel made from used cooking oil.

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