US announces new prize for fuel-efficient planes

Business Materials 11 July 2008 03:12 (UTC +04:00)

The US plans to offer monetary incentives to the developers of a viable substitute for jet fuel, which could bring down surging petrol costs in the aviation industry, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced Thursday, dpa reported.

An amount was not given, but the competition, in conjunction with the X Prize Foundation, would be similar to a 10-million-dollar 2004 award given to the first private company to launch a manned spacecraft.

"The race to refuel American aviation is on, and our hope is that the X Prize will jump-start investment and spur innovation," Peters said at an aviation and energy summit in Washington.

Rising fuel prices have forced US airlines to make significant cutbacks in their services in recent months, including charges for checked baggage and in-flight meals.

US Airways late Wednesday announced it was removing video screens from all domestic aircraft, because the 500 pounds in saved weight per flight would reduce fuel costs by 10 million dollars per year.

A group of 12 US airlines launched a publicity campaign Wednesday, deflecting blame for higher ticket prices and pressing for legislative action on energy costs, in an open letter to customers.

Peters said the new competition could change the face of the aviation industry.

"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," she said.