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Press Releases :: March 26, 2009

Subcommittee Examines the Potential of Biofuels in Civil Aviation to Protect the Environment and Strengthen Energy Independence

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing to review the status of federal and industry research and development (R&D) efforts to develop safe and cost-effective uses of biofuels in civil aviation. Subcommittee Members questioned witnesses regarding the results of recently completed aviation biofuels demonstrations and what steps the federal government is taking to assess their viability. Members also examined the current R&D efforts and what further research is need.

“Our nation is wrestling with the twin challenges of achieving energy independence and preserving our environment. They are tough challenges, but we’ve got to succeed. Every sector of our economy is going to have to play its part in helping to reduce our dependence on foreign energy as well as helping to combat global warming. We all know the importance of aviation to our economy and to our quality of life, but that doesn’t give it a ‘free pass’,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). “This Congress will be focused on finding the best path forward as it considers climate and energy legislation in the coming months.”

In 2006, for the first time in history, fuel became the largest component of operating costs for U.S. airlines. High fuel prices combined with possible caps on harmful aircraft engine emissions have encouraged the aviation community to investigate alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuels that would be safe and cost-effective to produce and use. According to the Air Transport Association (ATA), over the past seven years, commercial aircraft have maintained an average consumption rate of about 20 billion gallons of fuel a year but fuel prices have more than doubled.

In order to become suitable for commercial aviation, biofuels will need to be high in energy, safe to use, and cost-efficient. They would need to be able to be produced in large quantities, remain liquids in sub-zero temperatures, and be widely available to aviation users.

“We have first-rate R&D capabilities at NASA, the FAA, DOD, and DOE, as well as in America’s companies, research institutes, and universities. However, those capabilities will not suffice without clear R&D roadmaps, program plans, and resource commitments to guide our efforts,” added Giffords. “I’m afraid the odds of success will be reduced without an integrated federal/private sector approach to evaluating the potential benefits and costs of aviation biofuels, including a systematic plan to understand their impacts on both existing and future aircraft technologies, as well as land use and water requirements.”

For more information, please visit the Committee’s website.



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