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United Flights from LA to San Francisco Now Use Biofuel, Create 60% Less Emissions

Image Credit: United Airlines

Regularly scheduled United Airlines flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco will be fueled by a blend of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel, reducing an estimated 60 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with regular fuel.

Other airlines have tested biofuel, but United says it has “made history … by becoming the first U.S. airline to begin use of commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights,” with this new initiative.

The flights are made possible by a deal with AltAir Paramount: United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable biofuel from the Paramont, Calif.-based renewable fuels company over a three-year period, with an option to purchase more. United claims that 15 million gallons is enough to power the equivalent of 12,500 flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The Chicago-based carrier made the announcement on Friday before the first flight under the agreement took off from the Los Angeles International Airport.

“Today’s historic launch of regularly scheduled service utilizing advanced biofuels represents a major next step in our ongoing commitment to operate sustainably and responsibly,” said Angela Foster-Rice, United’s managing director of environmental affairs and sustainability.

“Los Angeles is a global leader in sustainability, so it's no wonder that the first U.S. flights to use commercial-scale, renewable jet fuel are taking off from our airport,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Today, we set a new standard for sustainability in aviation — an example I hope the rest of the industry will follow in the coming years.”

United has been using biofuels in various amounts since its first biofuel demonstration flight in 2009. In 2011, United and Alaska Airlines were the first U.S. carriers to operate commercial flights powered in part by advanced biofuels. Last year, United struck a $30 million equity investment deal with U.S.-based alternative fuels developer Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., a company which is developing a method of converting municipal solid waste – household garbage – into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel.

United’s EcoSkies program includes a Sustainable Supply Chain (SSC) initiative to ensure its biofuel is sourced responsibly.

The announcement comes just weeks after JetBlue Airways became the first U.S. airline member of The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) and Boeing’s announcement to support biofuel advancement with partners in Mexico.

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