For a number of years now, we in the industry have been calling on governments to support the commercialization of sustainable alternative fuels. In fact, only a few months ago, leaders of all sectors of aviation joined together to pen an open letter to governments asking (among other things) for exactly that.
Now it looks like the US Federal Government has heeded that call with the publishing of the Federal Alternative Jet Fuels Research and Development Strategy. While it might not have the catchiest of names, it is hoped this strategy paper will pave the way for serious progress on sustainable alternative fuels in the US, building on the work already being done by airlines like United.
The plan is to encourage cooperation between a number of Federal agencies, such as the Energy Department, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, developing each aspect of alternative fuel commercialisation in tandem. This means creating the right environment for feedstock production and overcoming a range of technical hurdles that currently make alternative fuel cost inefficient to airlines. Importantly, for such a complex and expensive undertaking, the strategy is also intended to make R&D as efficient as possible, avoiding needless duplication of efforts and enhancing cooperation among all the players.
For those who have been calling for government action on developing sustainable alternative fuels for environmental reasons, this initiative has come as welcome news. With any luck, this strategy will kick-start a drive towards commercial-level production of these fuels in the US and, perhaps, other parts of the world too.