Flight Flies on 100 Percent Biofuels

Biofuels & Climate Change

This week saw the first-ever completely biofuel-powered flight take place. The National Research Council of Canada conducted the first flight on 100 percent renewable, drop-in biofuel on its Falcon 20 jet, according to oilprice.com, marking a huge milestone for the aviation and renewable energy industries.

Oilseed crops commercialized by Agrisoma were used as a feedstock and transformed by Applied Research Associates into a complete replacement fuel for conventional jet fuel. Previously, flights on biofuels had been limited to a 50 percent blend with petroleum making this a major breakthrough.

Industrial biotechnology continues to enable solutions to energy challenges, and building a biobased economy is key to reducing dependence on foreign oil enhancing our nation’s economic and energy security. Production and use of advanced biofuel could displace at least 15 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel – the equivalent of 475 million barrels of oil – each year by 2022, reducing oil imports by $70 billion each year according to Bio-ERA.

The U.S. Navy has long recognized the importance of reducing dependence on foreign oil as it strives toward its goal of cutting petroleum use 50 percent by 2020. Last week, the U.S. Navy signed an agreement with biotech company Biodico to collaborate on developing advanced biofuels and bioenergy refineries throughout the globe for the U.S. military.

Included in the agreement, Biodico will build a sustainable bio-refinery at the U.S. Naval Base in Ventura County, California that will produce biofuels and bioenergy at prices competitive with unsubsidized conventional fuel and power. The California Energy Commission will partially fund the construction through grants.

“Our objective is to privately fund sustainable biorefineries at DoD facilities around the world at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer, and to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil,” says JJ Rothgery, Biodico’s Chairman of the Board in a SustainableBusiness.com article.

For every $0.25 rise in the price of jet fuel, the Department of Defense (DoD) must come up with an extra $1 billion annually, which must be diverted from training, maintenance, and other mission-essential programs. The Pentagon spent $17.3 billion on petroleum in 2011, a 26 percent increase from the previous year with practically no change in the volume purchased. In fiscal year 2012 alone, the $30 increase in prices of oil resulted in more than $3B in additional, unplanned costs to DoD.

Progress in biofuel-powered flights and the Navy’s continued pursuit of alternative energy are great steps to help the United States build a biobased economy and meet its responsibility to reduce reliance on foreign oil. A domestic biofuel industry means we grow fuels at home instead of importing them from abroad.

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