Bugs won't be piloting the plane, obviously, because bugs can't get pilot licenses. I hope I didn't give you that impression. But they will be fueling it. Microbes will be fueling aircraft, says Boeing and algae will be the dominant aircraft fuel by 2023.
Darrin Morgan, who handles Boeing's biofuels strategy says Boeing has now established feasibility, and commercial production will soon begin. Boeing conducted the first commercial aviation non-algae biodiesel test flight in February with Virgin Atlantic and GE Aviation, and they now plan the first algae-based biodiesel flight from Auckland to San Francisco this month.
Before you say that this is just green-washing, let me tell you that Europe won't even let our planes land after 2012 if they can't meet the kind of emissions standards that can be devised by lobbyist-free government, such as they are blessed with in all those other countries.
Oh, wait, I see that that harsh rule has been modified recently, after airline industry howls of protest. Now they must just pay a little more to pollute, but they can at least land. Thank goodness for lobbies. But meeting these low CO2 requirements as hardly hurt Boeing sales, and their fuel efficent Dreamliner has even caused runups in worldwide carbonfiber prices.
New Zealand has set a similar standard to the EU requirement: new regulations increasing biofuel use by 2012. The prime minister there has committed to getting New Zealand 90% renewably powered by 2020 - she has made it to seventy percent so far - and that means planes will have to meet those standards too, when they refuel in those nations. So as you can imagine, the New Zealand startup Aquaflow supplying the bugs fueling Boeing's test flight, announced in March that they are gearing up for major production.
Even tiny Island nations like New Zealand could supply behemoths like Boeing all the algae they need to get us to Europe. That's because, with the exponential doubling growth rate of microbes, algae does not need a lot of space to manufacture enough algae to power our planes.
If we keep siphoning it off, of course. Which, no doubt we will.