Detroit Airports May Grow Biofuels

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Detroit-area airports are putting their surplus lands where their fuel nozzles are to try to boost the alternative fuels movement. The airport authority has turned over three acres of land to Michigan State University to grow canola and oriental mustard seed, two feedstocks for biofuel in a $476,000 state-funded project to see if all those 1,700 acres of neatly mown infields, overruns and other open space at Wayne County Airport and Willow Run Airport can be put to better use. If the trial is successful, the concept is that the feedstock from all the airport lands will be processed onsite and dropped into the airports' fuel tanks to supplement the regular fossil fuel supply. "How does aviation protect itself in the future against the depletion of fossil fuels and the uncertainty of foreign sources of energy?" WCAA Interim CEO Genelle Allen wondered in a news release. "Part of the answer may be to grow it."

The first step is to see how the plants do at the airport and assess their fuel potential and that's what the three-acre test plot will determine. Assuming canola and oriental mustard seed do what they normally do, the result could be a biofuel production hub that not only harnesses the airport lands but puts highway rights of ways and other vacant lands to use and perhaps entices neighboring farmers to switch to the biofuel crops.

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