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Boeing Aims To Use Biofuel By 2030

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 1/24/2021 Elizabeth Blackstock
a fighter jet sitting on top of a runway © Photo: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP (Getty Images)

Biofuels are all the rage these days as companies look for natural and more sustainable ways to power race cars and airplanes. Boeing has joined the party now, too, with its promise that 100 percent of its fleet will be running on biofuels by 2030.

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That’s a pretty big promise considering the fact that it’s still going to take a lot of work—only some of which can be done by Boeing. It might be able to tackle making advancements to its own jet systems, but it won’t be able to actually use those systems until fuel-blending requirements are raised and the machine is given a global safety certification. Those aren’t exactly things that Boeing can do on its own.

“It’s a tremendous challenge, it’s the challenge of our lifetime,” Boeing Director of Sustainability Strategy Sean Newsum told Reuters. “Aviation is committed to doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint.”

Newsum is correct here. Commercial flights are responsible for 2 percent of global carbon emissions and almost 12 percent of transport emissions. Biofuels would take a serious step toward slashing those emissions, especially if Boeing’s findings are replicated by other folks in the transportation sector.

Boeing does have a leg up here. In 2018, it sent out a commercial plane using 100 percent biofuel, so it isn’t like the company will be starting from scratch. But it will be forced to face the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on air travel. One step forward, two steps back.

Right now, biofuels can be used in air travel, but it has to be done in a 50/50 blend with conventional jet fuel, Boeing told Reuters. The company’s first step is to figure out what biofuels will make for safe air travel without being supplemented by jet fuel. 

Biofuels are very much what the name implies: fuels that come from natural, biological sources that are sustainable and can be easily replenished. That includes things like vegetable oil, animal fats, sugar cane, waste, and more—many of which do admittedly have their place in contributing to our current environmental situation (I'm looking at you, animal fat). But it is, at the very least, a step forward.

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