The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Advanced Biofuels Taking Off? Use of Non-food, Bio-based Jet Fuel Climbing

Earlier this week, United Airlines became the first air carrier in the U.S. to make a commercial flight using a 40 percent algae-based jet fuel from Solazyme. And today, Air Alaska is flying the nation's second commercial biofuels flight, using a fuel containing a 20 percent cooking-oil-based feedstock produced by Dynamic Fuels. Air Alaska will be making 75 trips within the U.S. over the coming weeks using the cooking oil blend.

It’s not cheap though. The fuel used by Air Alaska is roughly six times more expensive than traditional jet fuel. But a spokeswoman for the Air Alaska, Megan Lawrence, tells Climate Progress that the company is looking at a suite of options to reduce emissions, and finding new fuels is one of them.

“We’re trying to show that there’s demand for the product,” she said. “We know that we have to get out in front of these issues.”

These two U.S. announcements come after a series of commercial flights around the world using a variety of non-food based biofuels. Over the last few months, air carriers in the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Finland, Mexico, Spain and China all flew commercial flights using a blend of advanced biofuels. The flights prove that biofuels are safe, and that airlines are getting serious about alternatives to petroleum fuels.

Biofuels reporter Jim Lane, who runs the site Biofuels Digest, thinks that the aviation industry could be a “quick win” for biofuel companies now reaching scale: 

The case is strong. To convert 20 percent of road transport around the world to biofuels — a threshold most would describe as a major clean energy “win” — would take a transformative infusion of capital, and require the aggregation of as much as 1.5 billion tons of biomass. The impact? Transformative. The logistics? Daunting. The timelines? Awfully long for a public which feeds on 24-hour news cycles and 1-2 year product life cycles.

By contrast, converting 20 percent of aviation to biofuels would transform modern aviation, be a major signal that clean energy can work at scale, and offers a model for developing R&D, certification and supply chain consortia. It would take around 12 billion gallons of biofuels, and perhaps 120 million tons of biomass, distributed to 1,700 or so airports around the world.

How clean are these fuels? Air Alaska says the cooking-grease fuel emits about 10 percent fewer carbon emissions when burned than petroleum jet fuel. On a life cycle basis, Dynamic Fuels says the fuel emits about 80 percent fewer carbon emissions — even with the fuel being produced far away and delivered via truck or rail.

Don’t expect all these partnerships to send the biofuels industry soaring quite yet. We’ll need to see far bigger refineries for costs to become competitive with petroleum-based jet fuel. Many airlines are just experimenting, and are currently finding far more cost-effective solutions in washing airplanes, reducing weight, and using new forms of air traffic control.

However, as Air Alaska’s Lawrence told Climate Progress, new fuels will be increasingly important.

“This is the next logical step for us, and by helping create more demand for fuel we can help find an alternative that is more competitive.”

This article was originally published by Climate Progress and was reprinted with permission.


Ukraine flag

US Companies Invest Millions in Ukraine Bioenergy Despite Turbulent Policy

Vladislav Vorotnikov, International Correspondent Massachusetts-based Briggs Capital plans to invest US$250 million in the Ukraine bioenergy sector within the next several years, according to its CEO Rhode Robertson. The announcement was made amid significant problems in U...
Coal plant

US Clean Power Plan Will Double Coal Plant Closures

Jim Snyder and Tim Loh, Bloomberg

A new government analysis of President Barack Obama’s signature effort to fight climate change affirms what critics suspected: the proposal could further weaken an already battered coal industry.


Angola's $750 Million Sugar-to-Fuel Project to Start in June

Manuel Soque and Colin McClelland, Bloomberg

A $750 million project to produce ethanol and sugar in Angola will start next month after a year of delays as costs rose 50 percent on a plantation larger than Montreal.

Renewable energy jobs

Global Renewable Energy Employment Surges 18 Percent to 7.7 Million

Andrew Burger, Correspondent Ongoing growth in renewable energy investment and deployment is creating jobs worldwide — and lots of them. This job growth is helping governments address a fundamental economic problem plaguing developed and developing cou...
I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in to...


Volume 18, Issue 3


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon



Renewables and Mining Summit and Exhibition

African mining leaders are seriously exploring new energy solutions to s...

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

Now in its 31st year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with...

Green Energy Summer School: Introduction to Bioenergy

This introductory course gives a detailed overview of the principles of ...


Substrate Feeder for Biogas Facilities

RUD manufactures complete, ready-to-use conveyor systems for transportin...

US Energy Grid Review Finds Needed Upgrades Would Allow More Solar,...

Yesterday (April 21) the U.S. Department of Energy released the first Qu...

Clean Energy Patents Rise in 2014, Solar Tops others, Toyota and GM...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies in 2014 were again at an all ...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now