Political Support Needed To Jumpstart Growth Of Domestic
The Pacific Northwest has the diverse feedstocks, fuel-delivery
infrastructure and political will needed to create a viable
biofuels industry capable of reducing greenhouse gases and meeting
the future fuel demands of the aviation industry. Creating an
aviation biofuels industry, however, will depend upon securing
early government policy support to prioritize the aviation industry
in U.S. biofuel development.
That's the conclusion announced Wednesday in a 10-month study by
Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN), the nation's first
regional stakeholder effort to explore the feasibility, challenges
and opportunities for creating an aviation biofuels industry in the
Pacific Northwest. Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Portland International
Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane
International Airport and Washington State University partnered in
a strategic initiative to identify the potential pathways and
actions necessary to make safe, sustainable aviation biofuel
commercially available to airline operators in the area.
"It is critical to the future of aviation that we develop a
sustainable supply of aviation biofuels," said Boeing Commercial
Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh. "Airlines are particularly
vulnerable to oil price volatility, and the aviation community must
address this issue to maintain economic growth and further mitigate
the environmental impacts of our industry."
Albaugh described the study as a critical, first step in
identifying the regional specific actions – from biomass
options, infrastructure and financing incentives – that
should be taken to create a renewable fuels supply chain that meets
rigorous fuel and safety standards.
To make a sustainable biofuels industry a reality, the study
outlines an integrated approach recommending the use of many
diverse feedstock and technology pathways, including oilseeds,
forest residues, solid waste and algae. In addition, the study
outlines the long-term importance of securing aviation biofuels as
a top government priority and using the aviation industry to drive
growth in domestic production.
The comprehensive study examined all phases of aviation biofuel
development, including biomass production and harvest, refining,
transport and airport infrastructure and actual use by airlines.
However, as with any new energy supply, political support at the
state and federal level is critical in the early stages of
development. While the study does not advocate for permanent
government support, it recognizes that focused public investments
and parity with other biofuels programs will be needed to place the
industry on an economically competitive basis.
Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer, said: "Alaska
Airlines has made significant strides in reducing its environmental
impact by enhancing the efficiency of its operations, including
using satellite-based flying technology and investing in the most
fuel-efficient airplanes in their class – but efficiency is
only part of the answer. In order for the aviation sector to
continue its impressive record of fuel efficiency and emissions
reduction while continuing to grow, it is important that a
sustainable supply of aviation biofuels is developed."
Unlike other ground transportation sectors, the aviation
industry has fewer energy alternatives. For at least the next 20-30
years, commercial and military jets will need liquid, high
energy-density fuels with the same technical performance as
"We are proud to join our partners in biofuels research that
will help the aviation sector to continue its record of reducing
its carbon footprint," said Steve Schreiber, Port of Portland
aviation director. "The Northwest is uniquely positioned to serve
as a blueprint for developing a U.S.-based, sustainable aviation
"Airports have been leaders for years in finding ways to reduce
their environmental footprint, from clean fuel sources for taxis
and shuttles to electrification of ground equipment and
pre-conditioned air, but in order to take the next big step we have
to address emissions from aircraft," said Bill Bryant, Port of
Seattle commission president. "We can't get there without biofuels.
It not only will help the sustainability of the Northwest but also
the aviation industry."
Dr. John Gardner, vice president for Advancement and External
Affairs at Washington State University, said: "WSU will combine our
world-class biofuel and agricultural researchers along with
significant institutional assets to leverage the Northwest's
abundance of agricultural and natural resources necessary to create
a dynamic new aviation fuels industry. The long-term payback will
be a stateside industry that greatly enhances our traditional
economic strengths; from farming and forestry to engineering and
aerospace, creating new opportunities and new jobs for the
Launched in 2010, the SAFN initiative united more than 40
regional stakeholders ranging across aviation, biofuels production,
environmental advocacy, agriculture, forestry, federal and state
government agencies, academic research and technical consultancies.
Climate Solutions, a Northwest clean-energy economy nonprofit,
facilitated the stakeholder process and took the lead in
researching and drafting the report.
"The course is clear that aviation biofuels are key to the
future of sustainable air travel," said Lawrence J. Krauter, chief
executive officer, Spokane International Airport. "We can no longer
base our future on imported petroleum, especially if the United
States wants to remain an aviation leader. The SAFN study proves
domestic biofuels are feasible and offers an economic opportunity
for us to remain competitive as an industry and move toward a
sustainable, domestic fuel supply."