Is a Northwest biofuel industry possible?

An organization called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN) has released a ten-month study suggesting a sustainable aviation biofuel industry could be created in America’s Pacific Northwest.

Provided, of course, that government policy prioritizes development in the region.

The research project is supported by Alaska Airlines, Portland and Seattle International Airports, Washington State University, and Boeing, whose representative said variable gasoline prices can drastically shift airline rates. 

Looking at oil seeds, forest residues, solid waste and algae, the study concluded there was enough potential infrastructure in the region to create a healthy market, but that government subsidies were necessary in the immediate future to keep costs competitive.

Although a reliable biofuel network in Oregon and Washington could be an economic boost to the area, a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded alternative fuel is only as green as the resources from which its originally derived. 

Further damning, a United Nations report determined government subsidies for biofuels can increase the cost of food in third-world countries, which may ultimately lead to more deaths in developing parts of the world. 

Still, we recently noted the U.S. Department of Energy is funding eight different biofuel projects – an effort slated to cost $47 million.

The report from SAFN was compiled by Climate Solutions, a non-profit organization looking for practical ideas to curb global warming. 

While it’s always good to know the potential resources available in any region, the devil is in the details, as the old saying goes. Just how beneficial an aviation biofuel market can be ultimately depends on how that fuel is created, distributed, and supported against other sectors.

Aaron Colter, EarthTechling