Aviation Biofuels Are A Gamechanger. Here’s Why We Need More

By Holly Riddle

In 2017, NASA released a study that said powering jet engines with just a 50-50 blend of biofuel and traditional aviation fuel could reduce particle emissions in exhaust by as much as 50–70%. Obviously, then, aviation biofuels are a big deal. So big, in fact, that they could be the key to sustainable tourism.

What are aviation biofuels?

Biofuels are essentially sustainable fuels that are produced from biological material, like plants and waste. To be considered truly sustainable, a biofuel must be produced in such a way that the production of biofuel does not negatively impact land (agricultural or otherwise) or fresh water. (For example, cutting down a forest in order to plant corn for biofuel would not be considered sustainable.)

corn used to create aviation biofuels
Corn is a good example of a biological material that can be used to create aviation biofuel | TODD TRAPANI

As the demand for air travel continues to soar, biofuels can help the world simultaneously address its carbon footprint. More flights mean more emissions, but using biofuels can help lessen the blow.  

Biofuel challenges

Unfortunately, there are still some challenges with biofuels. For one, there’s just not enough to go around. Manufacturers aren’t producing biofuel at a fast enough pace to meet the needs of the world’s aviation industry. 

Additionally, in some cases, there’s not enough raw material available to create biofuels. This is the case when it comes to biofuels created from used cooking oil. Thankfully, research is continuously underway to find better, more efficient ways of producing biofuel on a larger scale. Many biofuel sources are being explored, from household trash to seaweed. 

United Airlines uses aviation biofuels
All United Airlines’ flights out of LAX use biofuels | PASCAL RENET

The future of biofuels

Still, it is possible to find many airlines out there currently using biofuel in some shape or form on a regular basis. These include United Airlines, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines. 

Flying with airlines like these can help show the industry — and other airlines currently not using biofuel — that passengers care about their carbon emissions. Ideally, this will encourage more airlines to get on the bandwagon and more organizations to invest in the growing biofuel industry.