By Alan Yu

The Midwest could fuel its planes with biofuels in the future, according to a report released by Boeing, United Airlines and other partners on Thursday.

A year ago, Boeing and United joined the Chicago Department of Aviation, technology licensor Honeywell’s UOP and the Clean Energy Trust, a nonprofit trying to develop clean energy for the Midwest, in announcing a plan towards growing plants for jet fuel in the region. That culminated in the report released Thursday. The groups based their initiative, called the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative, in the Midwest because it is already a hub for airlines and agriculture. They are pursuing aviation biofuels for the potential environmental and economic benefits…

… However, the airline and biofuel industries still need to overcome several obstacles before adopting biofuels for aircraft, said Seth Snyder, biofuels technology manager at Argonne National Laboratory and an advisor on the biofuel initiative.

For one, biofuels cost more than traditional jet fuel, Snyder said. Earlier this month, United announced it will use biofuels for their flights out of Los Angeles next year, and it is looking into similar plans for Chicago. The fuel it will buy in California is made from chemically-treated vegetable oils, and the product has been approved for commercial use. However, the vegetable oil costs as much, or more than the actual fuel itself. Biofuel researchers are investigating other sources of biofuels, such as agriculture waste or wood, but that would take more chemical processing and the technology isn’t ready for commercialization yet…

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