Now here's some welcome innovation in the airline industry. Southwest Airlines announced today that it will be using biofuel on several of its flights by 2016, purchasing the blended fuel from a Colorado company that salvages "140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock" per year—fallen timber from local forests that might otherwise serve as fuel for wildfires.

The factory, Red Rocks Biofuels, then processes the biomass, transforming it into about 12 million gallons-worth of renewable jet and diesel fuels. According to Southwest, the airline will purchase three million gallons of biofuel per year, for routes originating in the Bay Area.

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Of course, three million gallons is not a huge amount for an airline. According to the Dallas Morning News, Southwest buys about 1818 million gallons a year—this greener store wouldn't even cover the fuel it uses in a single day. But it's a start, and it's not the only airline exploring the idea.

Southwest's announcement means it might beat out the longtime frontrunner in the biofuel race to the skies: Virgin Atlantic. Virgin performed a test flight in 2008 from London to Amsterdam using a biofuel kerosene blend and announced in 2012 that it was going to be using biofuels during some flights by the summer of this year, but obviously that has not yet come to pass. Southwest taking the lead on this adds some nice competition to an area where we really need to see some change, fast. [Southwest, Dallas Morning News via Consumerist]

Photo by Dylan Ashe/Flickr