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Fueling Sea-Tac’s flights with biofuel, only biofuel

Addressing reality can become an aviation act of defiance

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Businesses and local governments aren’t doubting climate change, and they aren’t waiting to do something about it. Sea-Tac may become the first airport to fuel all of its flights with something that isn’t purely liquid fossils. Leave the fossils alone. Fly on biofuel. Step one, finding it.

Boeing, Alaska Airlines, and the Port of Seattle released a study that concludes it is feasible to switch from pure aviation gas to biological products. Fossil fuels are biological products, too; just very old ones. Give Nature a few million years and be amazed at what she can do. Biofuels “simply” speed up the process with the side benefit of growing things.

Feasible is good. Economical can be tougher. The strongest driver to economical production is scale. The greater the demand, the more the efficiency of scale can drive down prices. Currently, biofuels are expensive; but that’s partly because the technology is maturing from research to boutique production to moderate-volume widespread production. By announcing the intent to fuel all of Sea-Tac’s flights with biofuel, they’re hoping to demonstrate a demand that may inspire the right supply.

As Seattle Weekly reported;

“But for those looking to the Pacific Northwest to keep toeing the line on carbon reduction, despite the federal landscape, here’s the good news: What’s happening here is being championed by local elected officials and private companies. It doesn’t seem as if Seattle needs the federal government on this.“

The logistics of air travel are complicated. Even fuels have to be proven to be reliable, consistent, and interchangeable. Biofuels alone may be fine in Seattle, but those same engines and fuel tanks have to fly in and out of airports around the world without making mechanics scratch their heads. It looks like those issues, as well as fuel production, transfer, and storage are being handled.

The effort to switch to biofuels has been going on for years, but now it may almost become an act of defiance to say we’ll do it in this Washington despite what they say in that Washington.