Mary E. Peters, US Secretary of Transportation
Mon 14 July 2008 – US Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters has announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is making a grant to the X PRIZE Foundation to develop a strategy to create monetary incentives for developing renewable aviation fuels and technologies. It is an element of the FAA’s NextGen programme to move aviation towards carbon neutral growth whilst doubling the capacity of the US aviation system by 2025.
“The race to refuel American aviation is on and our hope is that the X PRIZE will jump-start investment and spur innovation,” said Peters. “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 US energy independence and cleaner air.”
The FAA, in association with the US Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, have established the project to drive development in renewable aviation fuel technology. X PRIZE will identify a method for incentivizing the private sector and it is expected the competition will occur over three to eight years, which, it says, takes into account the difficulty of the task as well as maintaining the interest of potential inventors as well as the public.
“Clean fuels and technologies are critical to maintaining our productivity as a society and we are thrilled to receive this funding to explore options for alternative aviation fuels,” said Dr Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.
Over the next 14 months, X PRIZE will consult with industry experts to develop a strategy to solve the technical challenges and speed up the development and implementation of cost-effective renewable aviation fuels and technologies that have an environmental life-cycle benefit and do not present potentially negative side effects, such as the displacement of food production or the inducement of land use changes that lead to additional greenhouse gas emissions.
The Foundation will work with various organizations, including the private sector and academic members of the FAA’s Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative (CAAFI). In addition, it will define an implementation strategy that could lead to advances in environmentally friendly alternative aviation fuels and technologies that will ultimately accelerate their introduction at a faster pace than the market would normally provide. The strategy will facilitate discussions among industry and the government to identify prize sponsors and initiate the prize competition.
X PRIZE will seek sponsorship from a wide variety of partners and is open to government funding for purse and other sponsorships.
An announcement on the prize itself is expected to be made by late summer 2009, the timing dependent upon the success in securing sponsorships and maximizing exposure around the proposed prize. X PRIZE says there is a possibility of more than one prize purse and is interested in developing a second and third place award.
The prize is not just restricted to the United States. “We will develop the prize so that teams from any country can compete,” said a spokesperson for the Foundation. “We encourage innovation from the widest array of innovators as possible, even those working in fields where their specialties are not obviously relevant to our targeted outcomes. X PRIZES are about encouraging maverick thinking, as well as motivating key opinion leaders to solve specific challenges.”
The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational non-profit prize institute whose mission is to “create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity”. The $10 million Ansari X PRIZE was awarded in 2004 after the first private sector human suborbital space flight took place. Since then, three more X PRIZES worth a total of $50 million have been launched in the areas of genomics, lunar exploration and automotive transportation.
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