U.S. Airlines Launch With Biofuel

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Both Continental and Alaska Airlines this week are launching their first passenger flights powered by biofuel. On Monday, a Continental Boeing 737-800 flew the first biofuel-powered commercial flight in the U.S., from Houston to Chicago, burning a blend of 40 percent algae-derived biofuel. United, the parent company of Continental, said it intends to buy 20 million gallons of the algae fuel per year, starting in 2014. Alaska Airlines said it will power 75 flights with a 20-percent biofuel blend, starting this week.

Alaska Airlines' biofuel is manufactured from used cooking oil. The airline bought 28,000 gallons of the fuel -- at $17 per gallon -- to use in its fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s. That's about six times the cost of ordinary jet fuel, Alaska CEO Bill Ayer told The Wall Street Journal. "So the hope is, as this industry develops and it becomes scalable, the price comes down," Ayer said. Also this week, El Al Israel airlines said it intends to equip its fleet of 737NG aircraft with electric motors to use for taxiing. The system will reduce emissions, but it also will save money in the long run, according to El Al, by eliminating the need for ground tugs and reducing damage to engines from foreign objects during ground operations.