Southwest Airlines Standing Up Against Global Warming — Here’s How

Airplanes may be one of the most environmentally abrasive ways to travel, but new technology could curb some of that negative effect. Southwest Airlines has taken a step toward in reducing its carbon emissions with a three million gallon purchase of “forest residue” gas from Red Rock Biofuels. Southwest plans to begin using the product in San Francisco area airports in 2016, reported Denver Business Journal.

Bill Tiffany, Southwest Airlines’ vice president of supply chain, commented on the mutually beneficial deal in a company press release, reported Dallas Morning News.

“Our commitment to sustainability and efficient operations led us on a search for a viable biofuel that uses a sustainable feedstock with a high rate of success. Red Rock Biofuels’ technology, economics and approved use made entering into an agreement for purchase a win-win situation.”

Of course, the purchase is also great news for Red Rock Biofuels. In addition to striking up a relationship with Southwest Airlines, it opens the door for other companies to follow suit in the fight against global warming. Red Rock CEO Terry Kulesa believes that Southwest will be a great addition to its network.

“From the outset, we have sought to build the best possible team of project partners. A conversation we started with Southwest on the premise of providing renewable jet fuel at cost parity with conventional jet fuel has evolved into a great partnership. We’re happy to help Southwest diversify its fuel supply.”

While three million gallons may sound like a large purchase, it doesn’t seem quite as brave of a step when compared to the amount of fuel that Southwest typically burns through in a year. In 2013, the company purchased 1.8 billion gallons of jet fuel. Southwest is therefore switching only about 0.2 percent of its total use to the environmentally friendly version. In fact, the three million gallons only make up about 60 percent of Southwest Airlines’ daily use, reported Dallas Morning News.

While Southwest Airlines’ biofuel purchase is small, it may be the harbinger of more efforts to combat global warming by airlines in the future. The International Air Transport Association has said that several airlines have tested biofuels.

“Sustainable aviation biofuels are one of the most promising solutions to meet the industry’s ambitious carbon emissions reduction goals. Sustainable biojet fuels allow airlines to reduce their carbon footprint, ease their dependence on fossil fuels, and offset the risks associated with the high volatility of oil and fuel prices.”

In 2013, U.S. airlines paid $48.2 billion for 15.9 billion gallons of gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. If Southwest Airlines’ small switch to biofuels has a domino effect, it could be the beginning of the end of traditional jet fuel, taking a bite out of global warming.

[Image via Flickr]