Patty in the News

The Northwest has the ideal resources for producing biofuels for aviation, according to a study released Wednesday by a group including the Boeing Co. and Alaska Airlines.

"It is critical to the future of aviation that we develop a sustainable supply of aviation biofuels," said Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing's commercial airplanes division. "Airlines are particularly vulnerable to oil price volatility, and the aviation community must address this issue to maintain economic growth and further mitigate the environmental impacts of our industry."

Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest concluded a 10-month study and released it Wednesday. The study looks at all phases of aviation biofuels development, including production, refining, transport and use by airlines.

Boeing, Alaska Air, the ports of Seattle and Portland, and Washington State University launched the initiative last July. The group said favorable public policy and financial incentives will be needed to get a strong biofuel industry going in the region.

Jay Manning, chief of staff for Gov. Chris Gregoire, welcomed the idea of cultivating a biofuel industry in the state. Doing so would create jobs, be good for the environment and help grow Washington's aerospace industry.

Having a homegrown, sustainable fuel source should help stabilize fuel costs for the aviation industry. Alaska Airlines has done what it can in terms of fuel efficiency by operating fuel-efficient jets such as Boeing 737s and using satellite-based flying technology to reduce fuel consumption, said Bill Ayer, chief executive of the Seattle-based airline.

"We realize that efficiency can only take us so far," Ayer said.

Billy Glover, vice president of environment and aviation policy for Boeing, outlined the fuel sources the group identified in the region. Those include algae, solid waste, forest residues and oil seeds such as camelina, which grows in fairly dry soil.

Glover said it's important not to focus on just one fuel source. Additionally, the group wanted to make sure the sources they identified are sustainable. In terms of cost, Glover believes the price of producing biofuel will drop over the years.

"We expect a long runway of improvement over the years," he said.

In the short term, though, a new biofuels industry in the region will have plenty of positives, Glover said.

"It's going to create new jobs, good new jobs," he said.

Members of Washington's Congressional delegation introduced legislation that would create an even larger market for biofuels: the U.S. military. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with Rep. Jay Inslee, are sponsoring a bill that would increase the length of time in contract between the military and biofuel producers.

"Building our biofuel supply chain will create jobs and new economic opportunities in the state of Washington," Inslee said.

- HeraldNet