DOT Gives Grant to X Prize Foundation to Spur Renewable Aviation Fuels and Technologies

X Prize Press Release
10 July 2008

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today that the FAA has selected the X PRIZE Foundation to develop a strategy to create monetary incentives for developing renewable aviation fuels and technologies to stem the affect of pollutants from air travel.

“The race to refuel American aviation is on and our hope is that the X PRIZE will jump-start investment and spur innovation,” said Secretary Peters. “It will be a competition that everyone wins, because a breakthrough in alternative jet fuels is a potential game-changer that could bring lower airline fuel costs, greater U.S. energy independence, and cleaner air.”

The announcement was made at the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) summit on July 10 in Washington, D.C. The FAA and the X PRIZE Foundation hope to inspire the private sector and a new generation of individuals on the need and practical solutions offered through alternative fuels and adaptive technologies in aviation.

“Clean fuels and technologies are critical to maintaining our productivity as a society and we are thrilled to receive this funding to explore options for alternative aviation fuels,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. “In working with this grant, the X PRIZE Foundation will utilize its comprehensive capabilities in the areas of energy and the environment, including clean fuels, renewable power, efficient homes and buildings and environmental protection.”

The Ansari X PRIZE was awarded in 2004 after generating a 10-fold investment in research that fostered innovation and creativity in private-sector human suborbital space flight. Since that time, three additional X PRIZEs have been launched in the areas of genomics, lunar exploration, and automotive transportation.

Development of an aviation alternative technologies and fuels prize is a key element of the FAA’s Next Generation air traffic modernization program and the FAA’s strategy to move aviation toward carbon neutral growth. Known as “NextGen,” the program is a broad U.S. airspace system transformation plan established to double the capacity of the U.S. aviation system by the year 2025. Alternative aviation fuels made from renewable, non-fossil sources may potentially offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the increased air traffic.

The FAA, in association with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, established this project to drive the development of renewable aviation fuel technology. The X PRIZE Foundation has been selected to identify a method for “incentivizing” the development of these fuels and technologies and to devise a strategy to implement the prize incentive model in coordination with NextGen efforts.

Over the next 14 months, the X PRIZE Foundation will consult with industry experts to develop a strategy to bring together the best minds in the aviation and science communities to solve the technical challenges and speed up the development and implementation of cost-effective renewable aviation fuels and technologies that have an environmental life-cycle benefit and do not present potentially negative side effects, such as the displacement of food production or the inducement of land use changes that lead to additional greenhouse gas emissions. The X PRIZE Foundation will work with various organizations, including the private-sector and academic members of the FAA’s Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative (CAAFI). In addition, the Foundation will define an implementation strategy that could lead to advances in environmentally friendly alternative aviation fuels and technologies that will ultimately accelerate their introduction at a faster pace than the market would normally provide. The strategy will facilitate discussions among industry and the government to identify prize sponsors and initiate the prize competition.

The FAA and X PRIZE Foundation expect that the competition will likely occur over three to eight years, taking into account the difficulty of the task but also maintaining the interest of potential inventors as well as the public.