All of these culminate in a strong desire here in the U.S. to reduce reliance
on foreign oil. The U.S. Department of Energy is hoping to do its part by
sponsoring a $20M
USD prize for LED lighting research to lower the consumer energy
load. Now the Department of Transportation (DOT) is pushing to launch a
similar initiative for airline biofuels.
The airline industry is facing insolvency due to the soaring cost of fuel,
which has been shown to hit America particularly hard to the nation's obesity
(a 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study indicated that Americans
increasing weight led to a rise
in fuel cost of $275M USD in the year 2000 alone).
Some private efforts, such as billionaire Richard Bransen's efforts with Virgin
Airlines, have wet
their feet a bit with biofuels or other oil alternatives like hydrogen, but
little progress has been made. The DOT, along with the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA), is granting
$500,000 to the X Prize Foundation to create a new prize for developing
alternative fuels or technologies.
The foundation hopes the final prize will amount to over $10 million once it
can secure a private sponsor. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary
Peters announced the move Thursday, stating, "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 new prize corresponds with the FAA's new Next Generation air traffic
modernization program, "NextGen". The growth program hopes to
double air traffic by 2025, while keeping carbon emissions constant, by
adopting new fuels or more
The move has been long coming. The X Prize Foundation has been in talks
with the DOT and FAA since the 90s. After analyzing industry
alternatives, the DOT and FAA finally decided that the X Prize was the best way
to stimulate development. The grant is among the first from a government
organization to the X Prize Foundation.
Over the next 14 months ,the X Prize Foundation will set up the aviation prize
rules based on input from a panel of industry experts. It will also try
to secure private sponsors. It hopes to launch the competition by 2011
and find a winner by 2016.
Jason Morgan, senior director of prize development at the X Prize Foundation
states about the new prize, "With all the discussion about global warming,
the increasing cost of oil, and the increasing congestion everyone's feeling at
the airport, we need to do something dramatic about it and we think it's the
The X Prize Foundation is a nonprofit group. It currently has many prizes
seeking to advance humanity, including the $10 million Archon X Prize for
Genomics, the $30
million Google Lunar X Prize, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance
Automotive X Prize for energy-efficient vehicles.
The Department of Energy previously granted $3.5M USD to the Progressive
Insurance Automotive X Prize.