Basically my first job after coming to X PRIZE in the Summer of 2005 was to run a study of a potential Orbital X PRIZE. It was a great way to get my feet wet at X PRIZE, meet a lot of the people and the companies we deal with, and get very quickly up to speed on the potential benefits and specifics of such a prize. It was also pretty darn fun to work on.
I've done a few other similar studies since, including one for what eventually became the Google Lunar X PRIZE, and have always enjoyed them. The X PRIZE Foundation has developed a pretty good methodology for feeling out a specific research area to figure out it is there a good prize match for it, and what the particulars of that prize might be. For someone with a broad interest in a lot of the fields X PRIZE is looking into, it's a pleasure to go through one of these.
So, I must admit to being happy for and a bit jealous of my colleagues who will get to work on the newly announced study of potential prizes related to renewable aviation fuels.
“The race to refuel American aviation is on and our hope is that the X PRIZE will jump-start investment and spur innovation,” said Secretary 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 U.S. energy independence, and cleaner air.”
Given the number of airline miles I log (82,000 miles last year, as noted previously), I'm a big believer in the need for affordable, renewable, clean aviation fuels. I know that there have been some recent steps made in that direction, like the ability to purchase carbon offsets or Virgin's biofueled flight, but there hasn't been a clear, unambiguous, game-changing development. I hope that a prize can help change that--and kudos to the FAA for their willingness to be proactive and think about creative solutions!