Cantwell Applauds First Transatlantic Flight by Commercial Jet Using Biofuel

Cantwell: ‘Commercialization of biofuels can get our nation off of foreign oil, boost our own local economies, and reduce our carbon footprint’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement applauding the first-ever transatlantic flight by a commercial jet powered by biofuel. The Boeing 747-8 freighter flew from Everett, WA to Paris on Monday using a blend of 15 percent camelina and traditional kerosene. 

Camelina, grown in rotation with dry wheat, doesn’t compete with food or fresh water resources. As such, camelina is one of the biofuel sources identified for development for commercial use as part of the Sustainable Aviations Fuel Northwest (SAFN), an initiative Cantwell has supported – and urged Obama Administration support of – since its inception last July. In addition to SAFN, there are several other ongoing efforts to utilize biofuels in the Pacific Northwest, including AltAir, a commercial arrangement to produce jet fuel from camelina crops for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“Using domestically-produced renewable fuels to power our airplanes offers great economic opportunity for America,” Senator Cantwell said. “Commercialization of biofuels can get our nation off of foreign oil, boost our own local economies, and reduce our carbon footprint. I applaud the effort of Boeing and other Pacific Northwest leaders to propel Washington state’s biofuel industry forward. Diversifying our nation’s energy sources will make us less dependent on foreign imports and ensure America can profit from the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.”

The Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest initiative examined economics, potential feedstocks, and technical and policy hurdles to developing an aviation biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest. The study, the first of its kind in the United States, was managed by Climate Solutions, a Seattle-based non-profit organization. The initiative was launched in July 2010 by Boeing, Alaska Airlines, the operators of the region’s three largest airports – Port of Seattle, Port of Portland and Spokane International Airport – and Washington State University, a center for advanced biofuels research. 

Cantwell, chair of the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has long supported the development and commercialization of biofuel to help reduce our nation’s dependence on petroleum-based fuels and better protect the environment. Last July, Cantwell sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack urging him to support public-private initiatives in Washington state – including Sustainable Aviations Fuel Northwest – to develop aviation biofuels for military and commercial aircraft. The letter came as Vilsack met with corporate and academic representatives working on aviation biofuels projects, including Boeing and Washington State University. 

Last month, Cantwell joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in introducing legislation to increase the use of biofuels in the military, the largest single consumer of energy in the country. Cantwell was also instrumental in helping to author the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard, which requires the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. And at Senator Cantwell’s urging, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) contained over $80 billion dollars for green projects, including $80 million for advanced biofuels research.

Since 2004, Cantwell has brought together Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumers to help create a Washington biofuels industry. In 2005, Cantwell brokered a landmark agreement for the Port of Seattle and its clients to buy one million gallons of biodiesel a year. In addition, Senator Cantwell helped facilitate the construction of one of the biggest biodiesel facilities in the United States in Grays Harbor, as well as secured funding to help Washington state ferries operate on locally-produced biofuels.