Alternative Fuels Move Closer, As Aviation Escapes Emissions Control

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The FAA said last week it has reached a "major milestone" in its efforts to help the aviation industry develop sustainable alternative fuels, and this week, the U.S. House exempted aircraft from a major bill that will impose greenhouse-gas emissions standards. The House bill, which was passed last Friday, still must be approved in the Senate and signed by the president before it becomes law. The Senate, however, is not expected to push for limits on aviation emissions, according to Helicopter Association International. Meanwhile, the FAA said an international panel of experts is working to create new guidelines that will allow for the approval of alternative commercial jet fuels. A number of new alternative fuels could be approved within the next few years, according to FAA's Nancy LoBueand, acting assistant administrator for the environment. She said the approval of new fuels will help lower aviation's carbon footprint.

New guidelines have been worked out by a subcommittee of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International that set out criteria for ensuring the quality of alternative fuels for use in aviation, the FAA said. Once approved by the full ASTM committee later this year, operators will be allowed to use synthetic fuels in combination with conventional jet fuel up to a 50 percent blend. The FAA said it will oversee the process to ensure that any new fuel specification meets or exceeds current standards for safety and performance.