WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, released the following statement after Alaska Airlines announced that biofuels will be used to power 75 commercial passenger flights in the United States starting on Wednesday, November 9th. The first two flights will leave Seattle, Washington on Wednesday and travel respectively to Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon. For additional details, please see Alaska Airlines’ press release.

“Washington state is proud to be a part of this historic leap forward for America’s aviation biofuel industry,” said Cantwell. “Since the first transatlantic flight, Washington’s workforce has powered America’s commercial aviation industry. Biofuel powered jets are now ready to take off, and the Pacific Northwest is poised to be in the lead. We are ready to seize all the economic and leadership opportunities that will come along with being at the forefront of jet biofuel production.

“The growth and manufacturing of these fuels could establish a supply chain that has the potential to employ thousands of Washingtonians. It would create jobs across Washington, on our farms, at our research labs, and at our biorefineries, all helping support the continued growth of the aviation industry. By growing and producing our own biofuel, we can reduce our exposure to volatile jet fuel prices, boost our own local economies, and minimize our carbon footprint. As chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, I’ll ensure that America builds on this moment and continues to invest in biofuels to lower our fuel costs and reduce pollution.”

Cantwell has long supported the development and commercialization of biofuel to help reduce our nation’s dependence on petroleum-based fuels, better protect the environment, and provide the competition and additional supplies needed to help stabilize and lower jet fuel costs. Planes account for 7.5 percent of our nation’s liquid fuel use and are responsible for around five percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

On July 28, Cantwell headed a subcommittee hearing to examine efforts to develop alternative aviation fuels, the impact of fuel prices on the industry, and obstacles that must be overcome to facilitate their commercialization and adoption throughout the industry.

Cantwell, along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced legislation last May to extend the length of contracts between the Department of Defense and biofuel producers from the current limit of 5 years to 15 years. Representative Inslee (D-WA) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Allowing for longer-term contracts with the largest single consumer of energy in the country would help companies in Washington state to obtain the financing they need to grow their operations. On June 24, 2011, Cantwell reintroduced bipartisan legislation to reform and extend the tax incentive for domestic biodiesel production which includes qualified aviation jet fuel.