United Airlines To Begin Flights That Run On Farm Waste, Animal Fat

James Longley Contributor
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United will start flying a domestic flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco at some point this summer that runs entirely on fuel from farm waste and oil from animal fat, The New York Times reports.

The airline made the announcement Tuesday.

In addition to beginning a regular flight, United will invest $30 million in one of the largest producers of jet bio-fuels, Fulcrum BioEnergy, which marks the biggest to date investment by a domestic airline into bio-fuels, according to the Times.

“This is just one of our initiatives to help make these fuels saleable and scalable,” United executive vice president and general counsel Brett Hart said in a statement. “It’s a smart move for our company as biofuels have the potential to hedge against future oil price volatility and carbon regulations.”

United’s investment in Fulcrum represents a small portion of its fuel consumption, which totaled 3.9 billion gallons of jet fuel and cost $11.6 billion last year, according to the Times.

President Barack Obama just proposed new limits on emissions by airlines, and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization will likely put limits on carbon emissions by February 2016.

Fulcrum has devised a process that takes typical trash and turns into aviation fuel. It is typically mixed with conventional jet fuel and cuts emissions by 80 percent.

The California-based bio-fuel company is building a plant in Nevada which is scheduled to open in 2017, and has plans for an additional five plants across the U.S.

Other airlines including Alaska Airlines and British Airways have plans to dive into the alternative fuel sector, and others have expressed interest in using these fuels.

United first delved into alternative fuels in 2013 when it agreed to purchase 15 million gallons of biofuels over three years from AltAir Fuels, which makes fuels from natural oils and agricultural waste, the Times reports.

United released information regarding the AltAir Fuels and their benefits. 41,600 flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco could be powered with the alternative fuel. The bio-fuels will be mixed by a 30/70 ratio.

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