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Qatar Airways Flies World's First Natural Gas Commercial Jet

October 13, 2009 at 4:35 PM | by | ()

The culmination of a story we've been following for two years, Qatar Airways has finally launched their eco-friendly natural gas commercial jet. There will always be debates about whether it's actually better for the environment to use natural gas on such a large scale, and someday we might discover that there are costs we don't know about, but in the meantime the airline is basking in the attention that they're rightfully getting:

Qatar Airways is claiming its place in history by operating the world's first commercial flight using fuel made from natural gas, creating a potential new source of aircraft fuel for the future. The jet fuel... helped power an Airbus A340-600 from London Gatwick that landed in the Qatari capital, Doha... 'Qatar's position as the GTL capital of the world has been further enhanced with today's achievement,' Abdulla bin Hamad al-Attiyah, the country's deputy prime minister of energy and industry, said.

Of course the airline isn't making the shift purely out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. Qatar has one of the world's largest gas reserves so presumably this is actually cheaper for them. Even if it isn't cheaper for the company itself right now, Qatar as a country would be in a huge position to benefit if the rest of the airline industry began to follow Qatar Airways' lead.

An industry shift would have other consequences and benefits, some of which are pretty easy to see and some of which are a little muddier. It's tough to know what would happen to ticket prices. The only redeeming feature of oil is that it's (relatively) cheap energy. That's why we keep using it instead of, say, natural gas. If some airlines switched to more expensive fuel options—and if some customers were willing to pay more to avoid harming the environment - it might raise ticket prices for everyone.

On the other hand airports would almost instantly be cleaner and less environmentally toxic, as would air travel in the broader sense. So while it's unlikely that major US airlines will rush to convert their engines to natural gas, here's hoping that this milestone at least gets some of them thinking in new directions.

[Photo: Mulag / WikiCommons]

Related Stories:
· Qatar Airways first to fly with natural gas jet fuel [WA Today]
· Qatar Airways Coverage [Jaunted]
· Green Travel Coverage [Jaunted]

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