Southwest Airlines Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Green Future In Mind

Despite current fuel prices being as high as the airplanes themselves, Southwest Airlines celebrates its 40th birthday with the intention to continue its service for many more years to come. In recent talks with Solena, Southwest Airlines plans to secure a deal with the biomass fuel company. The deal will provide the airline company with fuel produced from biomass.

Along with several other airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, FedEx, JetBlue Airways, United Continental, and US Airways, Southwest Airlines is negotiating with Solena Fuels for a supply of 100% biomass fuel. Solena hopes their GreenSky plant in northern California will be able to convert 550,000 tons into 16 million gallons of fuel by the year 2015.

As airlines start using biofuels for their jets, it will benefit the wallets of passengers. Biofuels cost less than half of their fossil fuel counterparts. If airlines can pay less for fuel, then airfare prices will most likely go down.

Implementing advanced technology, Solena Group is able to convert any type of biomass into usable fuel. One of the sources for biomass will be trash, providing some relief for overflowing landfills. Additionally, the company has teamed up with Spain’s Bio Fuel Systems S.A. to deal with carbon dioxide emissions during the conversion process. Solena is able to use the carbon dioxide to grow micro-algae, which is then converted to electricity. Solena’s operations are effectively carbon neutral.

However, there are conflicting opinions on the eco-friendliness of biofuels. Some experts argue biofuels do not burn cleanly and can result in more harmful emissions than fossil fuels. Most people will agree, though, that biofuels are a sustainable source of energy; producing biofuel is safer than drilling for oil.

In addition to their plan of acquiring biofuel to power their jets, the airline company’s festivities include other eco-friendly endeavors. In collaboration with the Student Conservation Association, Southwest Airlines has launched the Conservation in Action tour: 40 Projects for 40 Years. The first stop of the tour is Dallas, Texas and the tour will last throughout the summer. Says Gary Kelly, President and CEO of Southwest Airlines, “This is the perfect way to celebrate our 40th Anniversary. Volunteering and giving back is something our people do year round. It’s our way of saying thank you to the communities that have given so much to us.”

In Dallas, SCA interns and Southwest employees took part in three separate community projects in the city. One of the projects was to plant 500 trees. With the help of Southwest Airlines and the SCA, leaders of the Texas Tree Foundation say planting the trees took only a few hours to complete. Without the help of volunteers, it would have taken a whole month.

A separate group of volunteers headed over to the Trinity River Audubon Center. Despite being a landfill in the past, the eco-friendly, LEED certified center is now situated on the site. About 100 volunteers worked on various improvements to the center, such as fixing fences, planting grass, and removing old Christmas trees.

The third project involved Dallas’s Rochester Park. Another 100 volunteers revitalized the park. Volunteers recreated and cleaned up a trail covered in trash and destroyed by off-highway vehicles. The amount of litter collected totaled 50 bags of trash and 20 bags of recyclables. Also, volunteers rejuvenated a kiosk damaged by vandalism.

During the tour, Southwest Airlines is also showing off their RV designed to run on biofuel. The RV is scheduled to stop by 25 cities across the country throughout the tour.

Lastly, until June 23, 2011, Southwest Airlines has cut prices on airfare in commemoration of its 40th anniversary. As low as $40 for a one-way ticket, the airline company wishes to bolster its image as a leader in customer service by offering their passengers deals on airfare.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/dustinbrice/2338701833

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