Virgin Atlantic and Boeing first flew a commercial airliner on biofuel earlier this year, followed by Continental Airline's announcement that Continental would fly a demonstration flight in 2009, and now Airbus with Honeywell, International Aero Engines and JetBlue have announced an alternative fuel partnership. The new partnership will work to develop renewable energy technology that converts non-food-crop vegetation and algae-based oils into a direct Jet-A substitute. Current biomass fuel sources have unimpressive energy yields when compared with fossil fuels, but change may be coming. "Airbus believes that second-generation bio-jet fuel could provide up to 30 percent of all commercial aviation jet fuel by 2030," according to Sebastien Remy, head of Alternative Fuels Research Programs for Airbus. Better still, the company expects that the new biofuel will be a drop-in replacement (no fuel system or engine modifications required) for kerosene or Jet-A burning engines.
The politics driving today's fuel research range from national economies, to an interest in reducing emissions, to concerns over governmental foreign policy -- and they may now adequately address concerns of food crops diverted to fuel production.