Biofuels are increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to conventional jet fuel in the US, according to Continental Airlines’ managing director for Global Environmental Affairs, Leah Raney. The Houston-based carrier has also been implementing its green initiatives across its ground services fleet in its major hubs in Houston, Newark and California by switching to electric vehicles and related infrastructure and using biodiesel in cold weather locations.
This is in contrast to the lack of government support seen in Europe to encourage development and usage of biofuels as highlighted by German carrier, Lufthansa recently.
The US carrier which has been trying to boost its green credentials since as early as 1998, was the first airline in the US to successfully carry out a flight test in one of its twin-engined Boeing 737 aircraft using biofuels made from algae and jatropha, in January this year.
‘Continental has been very proactive in green initiatives. The biggest thing that we have been doing is investing heavily in new fuel-efficient and clean aircraft. Over the last ten years we have invested $12bn in this area and we have been able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent,’ said Raney.
Raney spoke of the close cooperation and alliance formed amongst airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration to combat climate change.
‘We are working with the FAA in trying to get departure and approach procedures approved that use less fuel such as continuous descent approach into airports. Using the new technology that we have on our new planes we can fly more efficiently at more fuel-efficient elevation.
‘Along with other US carriers we are involved in the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, a forum to bring airlines and fuel suppliers together to action these new initiatives. We are trying to do what we can to stimulate these projects and get more alternative fuels certified for use, and we are hoping to start using alternative fuels by 2012.’
In August of this year, Continental and a number of the other airlines agreed to purchase alternative fuels for ground service in Los Angeles made from grass clippings, with alternative energy company Rentech. The company will build a new alternative fuel plant in Los Angeles, which the airline will be able to use in 2012.
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