The sellout crowd that turned out Friday to watch the Phillies win their home opener against the Houston Astros in Philadelphia was treated to a pre-game glimpse into the future.
No, not another National League East pennant, though anything is possible on opening day. Instead, minutes before the first pitch, fans were treated to the first “green” flyover as an Air Force F-15 fighter jet streaked over Citizens Bank Park powered in part by fuel made from plant oil.
One of the four jets from the 335th Fighter Squadron based in North Carolina flew on a blend of 50 percent traditional jet fuel and 50 percent synthetic biomass fuel made from camelina oil grown in Montana. Unlike ethanol, which is made from corn, camelina is a weed in the mustard family and not usually considered edible. It is also considered more fuel-efficient than ethanol.
The milestone air show came two days after President Barack Obama sought to revive his battered energy policy. In a speech at Georgetown University, Obama said the nation’s energy future depends on making fuel out of renewable resources to reduce reliance on foreign oil and polluting fossil fuels.
“Just last week, our Air Force used an advanced bio-fuel blend to fly an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed the sound,” Obama said of the first operational test of the new fuel. “In fact the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016. And I’m directing the Navy and the Department of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced bio-fuels that can power not just fighter jets, but also trucks and commercial airliners.”
The U.S. Air Force is the biggest user of aviation fuel in the Department of Defense — it burns 2.5 billion gallons a year, or the equivalent of a small airline — and it accounts for 10% of the total domestic jet fuel market. It has taken the lead in researching and testing new biofuels that can be used not only by military aircraft but by commercial airlines.