Multiple airline tests of oil from the non-edible jatropha plant suggest the biofuel is a potential substitute for traditional jet fuel with impressive results, according to results compiled by the non-profit company Business Matchmaking, Inc.
Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, Continental, Brazil's TAM Airlines, and most recently the Mexican carrier Interjet, in cooperation with European manufacturer Airbus, were hosts of successful tests and flights relying upon fuel from the jatropha plant which can grow on land unusable for farming.
A March 2011 comprehensive report by Yale's School of Environmental Studies, funded by Boeing, concluded that "Jatropha can deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits."
The Yale Study used sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels in evaluating actual farming conditions.
Mission NewEnergy, Limited, the largest producer of jatropha by acreage planted, currently employs more than 140,000 farmers in India cultivating jatropha without compromising food supply or food pricing. The company is currently distributing product in Europe, and launching its U.S. operations.
James Garton, Mission NewEnergy USA president, said, "We are particularly pleased to learn of repeated testing of Jatropha in aviation with positive results. With the unprecedented challenges facing the airlines as a result of the constant increase in the price of jet fuel, and the global need to accept sustainability as a key to environmental responsibility, the Jatropha solution is timely and efficient."
In addition to civilian aviation, there are studies underway by the military with regard to jatropha oil. Major General Wilbert Pearson (USAF-Ret), chairman of Mission NewEnergy's Advisory Board, concluded that "the military has a huge and continuing need for efficient and affordable fuel and jatropha appears to meet those standards while also meeting environmental demands."
The United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization has established the goal of reducing aviation-related carbon-dioxide emissions and the use of renewable fuels. At one point, there was speculation that ethanol might be appropriate for airplane use, but since it freezes at relatively low altitudes, it is deemed unacceptable for flight.
The Yale study projected greenhouse gas reductions up to 60 percent from jatropha-based fuel compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.