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Jatropha jet fuel

As 2009 gets underway, it’s encouraging to see the world’s airlines competing for environmental credentials. I wrote last month about Emirates’ claim to have launched the longest green flight, SFO to Dubai.

Now Air New Zealand reports that it powered one of the engines of a Boeing 747-400 with oil from jatropha plants. Continental Airlines has a special flight planned for Jan. 7 running partly on jatropha and algae-derived fuel. Virgin Atlantic, United, and Japan Airlines are also testing approaches to making their flights greener.

Growing plants to power jet planes raises a host of environmental issues such as whether the crops will crowd out food supplies. Jatropha seems to be a promising choice in that it grows in arid lands and that each seed can produce about a third of its weight in oil.

These green airline initiatives shouldn’t dissuade us from adopting carbon-reducing resolutions for the New Year (e.g., I will fly only when I really have to). But the new jet fuels now in test phase offer hope that air travel may still have a place in a low-carbon economy.

Take the first step.

Start small. Be conscious of the impact your actions have on the environment and figure out what you can do to lessen the blow. Calculate, conserve, and offset.

For businesses, our Corporate Sustainability Plans can help you with your emission reduction goals.

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