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Trees absorb carbon dioxide, provide oxygen, create habitat for wildlife, and … fuel jet engines?

One challenge in producing biofuel is finding enough forest residual (tree waste) to produce it. (Photo: Courtesy of Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance)

A recent Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Washington D.C. was powered by a blend of biofuel and traditional jet fuel. The biofuel made up one fifth of the mixture. It was created from the limbs and branches left-over after a forest was logged.

Michael Wolcott is the co-project director of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, the group that made the biofuel blend.

Wolcott: “In the case of our fuel, we had a 70-80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional petroleum fuel.”

According to Alaska Airlines, replacing twenty percent of its traditional fuel with this blend would save a lot of carbon pollution. If the switch were made just on its flights out of the Seattle airport, it would be like removing 30,000 cars from the road for a year.

But biofuel is currently more expensive than traditional jet fuel. Another challenge is finding enough tree waste to produce it. But Wolcott says demo flights like this one reflect a growing interest in low-carbon biofuels by the airline industry.

Wolcott: “So the airlines are interested in this fuel, they want to see it produced.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...