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The Sunday Times: Biofuels on way to clean up jet engines

April 22, 2007

Scientists are working on plans for an environmentally friendly jet fuel to clean up the image of aviation and head off government threats to curb air travel, writes Dominic O’Connell.

Engineers at Boeing, the American plane maker, say biofuels made from crops or algae may help fuel planes within five years, far sooner than anticipated.

Boeing is coordinating research and development in a consortium whose members include BP, Shell and Chevron as well as the US air force, Nasa and aircraft engine companies. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Fuels, which has invested in biofuel production in California, is also a member.

“There will have to be further processing of bioethanol or biodiesel to make it suitable for aviation use. It would be used as a blend with conventional fuel — perhaps up to 40% could be biofuel. This is very promising,” said Billy Glover, Boeing’s director of environmental strategy.

The move could preempt plans to curb aviation growth. Although it contributes only 2% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, the number of flights is rising by about 6% a year. Last year Gordon Brown doubled air passenger duty, paid by those flying in and out of the UK, claiming it would help cut emissions.

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