This has all the risks of being one of those hair-brained ideas thrown together to get attention and then amounting to being less than spectacular: KLM has partnered with a firm called AlgaeLink to produce an aviation fuel derived from Algae.
According to Radio Netherlands:
The Dutch carrier says if all goes according to plan 12 Fokker-50 planes – representing seven percent of KLM’s fleet – will fly on fuel derived from algae by 2010.
Most likely, the planes will be powered by a blend of fuels, though according to AlgaeLink (PDF here), KLM has every intention of running the 12 Fokkers on 100% biofuel.
At this point one has to give both companies the benefit of the doubt and a nice round of kudos for giving something radically new a try. Biofuels of the type being developed are theoretically carbon nuetral, don’t compete with foodstocks, and should be relatively cheap. Whether or not they offer the performance of traditional aviation fuel remains to be seen, as does their actual large scale implementation. Nonetheless, it’s a nice second step from Richard Branson’s coconut powered Virgin Atlantic flight earlier this year.
KLM has a well designed website on CSR focused on sustainable air transport, but as of this writing, does not discuss the algae project.
(As long as I’m being critical, calling 12 Fokkers 7% of KLM’s fleet is a bit of a stretch – even if they represent 12% of the actual aircraft, the majority of their fleet is made up of massive widebodies which make the fokkers’ emissions seem a pittance. But now I”m getting really picky)