We just recently covered the statement that United Airlines was powering scheduled trips with biofuels made by AltAir Paramount, “a California-based refinery that transforms lasting feedstocks, like non-edible all-natural oils and farming wastes, into low-carbon, renewable jet gas, according to United.”
The very first talk about the post asked “what is the resource of this bio-fuel?” On TreeHugger we don’t like to leave those type of inquiries hanging, as well as found that the AltAir plant makes its fuel from beef tallow and also pig fat, which are not considered edible oils.
The United States Navy made a big deal of an order from AltAir, keeping in mind that fuel made from tallow is “drop-in”- chemically similar to the petroleum based fuel it replaces. It was instead proud of the fact that it was using beef tallow as a feedstock, with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announcing:
Today’s deployment proves that America is on its way to a secure, clean energy future, where both defense and commercial transportation can be fueled by our own hardworking farmers and ranchers, reduce landfill waste and bring manufacturing jobs back to rural America.
Steve Csonka, executive supervisor of the Commercial Aviation Option Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) informs food site Munchies why beef fat is used: “The procedure is pretty durable, as well as there are different producers that are playing in this room. We are mostly discussing product that’s appearing of abattoirs, from the very first processing that takes place before complete meat.”
An AltAir Fuels representative stated “that beef tallow fuel is a “drop-in diesel,” suggesting it can be straight substituted, gallon-for-gallon, for conventional petroleum-based diesel.”
Csonka clarifies why biofuel is much better for the setting:
From the carbon dioxide perspective, these fuels are identical. So if I burn a gallon of jet fuel and I burn a gallon of HEFA (hydro processed esters and fatty acids) fuel, the carbon dioxide that comes out of the tailpipe of the airplane is identical,” he said. “The difference comes from the fact that I’ve produced the synthetic or renewable jet fuel without actually pulling additional carbon molecules out of the ground, or I did it at a substantially reduced level versus what I would have had to pull out of the ground if I just wanted to make petroleum-based jet fuel.
On the United site, they do not mention beef tallow. They only say:
Whereas conventional jet fuel is derived from crude oil, sustainable aviation biofuels can be derived from sources like non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes. The AltAir facility converts this feedstock into sustainably produced jet fuel that is expected to provide a greater than 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to fuel produced from crude oil.
However does that lifecycle analysis consider the carbon footprint of elevating cows, which are responsible for 7 percent of the globe’s carbon exhausts? When it comes to chemistry, it’s completely good jet fuel. The beef tallow is a waste product so one could make an instance for ignoring the carbon impact of making it.
Given the impact that increasing livestocks has, from its use land and water to the carbon gave off increasing it, I believe that a lot of individuals would look much less positively at United’s effort if they knew they were flying on beef tallow. And I make sure a lot of flying vegetarians would not be too happy either.