To combat the rising cost of a barrel of oil the airline industry has implemented a suite of  “creative” price hikes: Jetblue recently increased the cost of its roomier seats, American Airlines announced it will begin charging a luggage fee and US Airways plans to price all its non-alcoholic drinks at $2.

But among these inventive moves, one idea that we rather like has been overlooked. Last week air carriers Air New Zealand, Continental, and Virgin Atlantic Airways joined forces with the young but mighty Algae Biomass Organization(ABO). Boeing already co-chairs the 400-member non-profit that aims to fast track algae-as-commercial-fuel research.

Business Wire reported on Virgin Atlantic President Sir Richard Branson’s reasons for joining ABO:

"Algae really could be a solution to help airlines produce lower carbon emissions. Crucially, it is a source of fuel which doesn't lead to deforestation or the taking away of land or water from the cultivation of essential food crops."

Along with airlines, the DOE’s department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is also in a tizzy about “green” fuel. “…its potential oil yield per acre is unmatched by any other terrestrial feedstock. In fact, it could be 30 to 100 times more productive,” said EERE Chief Operating Officer Paul Dickerson about algae biofuel in November.

With that kind of output, fueling jets becomes possible and private companies begin to pop up everywhere. The ABO also hopes to be a voice of reason among all the algae prospectors. But just imagine: If the little living plants at the bottom of the food chain could power flight, than green would literally be the new black (and gold).

Story by Victoria Schlesinger. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008