Grow your own jet fuel?

19 Oct 2011

Oriental Mustard Seed Plants

Airports are notoriously difficult neighbors.  People don’t want to live near them because of the noise, there’s concerns about deicing fluids and fuel leaks and you can’t even put a landfill next to them because of the concerns about bird-airplane interaction (think of Flight 1549 that landed on the Hudson River in January of 2009). Now, there’s news about an idea that may make airports into better neighbors.

Kevin blogged earlier this year about a small scale study of the Grand Rapids airport looking to “pilot” a study of on-site farming for diesel fuel for equipment.

This experiment appears to have grown exponentially as there are now four Michigan airports farming mustard seed plants in their otherwise vacant areas to be turned into biofuels to supplement (or even replace) jet fuel.  This is a step beyond just fueling ground equipment. 

Whether this can be done economically is yet to be determined, but the idea is certainly interesting.  If economically viable, this could: put more Americans to work; utilize a previous un-utilized resource in a sustainable way; reduce aviation’s carbon footprint in multiple ways (drilling, transport and burning of oil) and provide greater national security by reducing dependance on foreign oil.  All good things depending on one very big “if” – if it can be done economically.  It seems unlikely that every airport could have its own refinery, but these are the sorts of things that these projects are designed to help figure out.

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