Businesses don’t just plan for tomorrow. They plan for the next 5, 10, 20 years. And, looking to the future, forward looking companies are exploring new possibilities for renewable energy. These companies acknowledge that climate change is a reality and that innovation is the best way to mitigate its effects while remaining profitable.
In fact, here in Washington state, Alaska Airlines is leading the way. Five years ago, Alaska recognized the potential of renewable jetfuels and became the first U.S. airline to fly multiple commercial flights using a biofuel created from used cooking oil. This test wasn’t done alone. The airline is part of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), led by Washington State University, with funds from the U.S. Department of Agrilculture. NARA is comprised of more than 22 partners, all searching for ways to use post-harvest forest residuals for renewable energy. After trees are harvested, the ‘waste’ can be converted into biomass which can then be converted into energy. This continues a sustainable path by using the whole tree, not just the main log, for productivity.
The decision to investigate alternative fuels was not only spurred on by financial decisions, but also the desire to control carbon emissions. According to Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president of external relations, “Sustainable biofuels are a key to aviation’s future and critical in helping the industry and Alaska Airlines reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels.” In other words, the company cares about its future, and the future of the environment in which it operates.
Alaska continues to bet on the potential of renewables. In early January, the company announced its partnership with a Colorado-based company, Gevo, to purchase fuel derived from isobutanol, a type of plant-based alcohol. In December, Alaska and Boeing, in coordination with Seatac Airport, announced an effort to make it the first biofuel-friendly airport.
Alaska Airlines, and many others in our state, are looking for new ways to do business. Washington companies don’t need new top-down regulations to spur action. They’ve been demonstrating climate leadership from the ground up.