Some Illinois-based companies are teaming with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in moving the airline industry off foreign oil and into domestic, green energy. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack met with representatives from Chicago-based Boeing and United Airlines to discuss moving the effort forward. He says the Department of Agriculture is helping start eight bio fuel refineries and has commitments with the U.S. Navy to purchase the first batches of green jet fuel produced from feed stocks such as switch grass.
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Boeing supports the efforts and says their commercial jets can handle the green fuel and actually are more efficient when burning the blended fuel. United Airlines says the fuels will help reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emission. They are on track for a 50 percent reduction in CO2 by 2050. United powered their first commercial biofueld flight in November 2011 and the company has letters of intent to purchase biofuel. While there is no plan by the Department of Agriculture for a biofuel refinery in Illinois, Vilsack says there are opportunities on some farms to grow different feed stocks for producing biofuels in addition to traditional corn and soybeans. He says there is also opportunity to use what’s left over after the corn harvest to produce biofuels.