A new way to offset emissions.

Airports need lots of room for planes to leave and land. And airplanes spew a lot of greenhouse gases. Idea: Grow crops on airport property to power the planes, and maybe help offset carbon emissions. It’s an idea that may be taking off in Michigan. Yep, taking off…

According to Biodiesel Magazine, Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports each use more than 1 million gallons of fuel per day. Airport owner Wayne County is working with Michigan State University (Go Green) on a project to grow airport fuel on the premises with bioenergy crops.

The two airports have 1,700 acres suitable for planting, according to the magazine, and canola and mustard seed will be used. The project, funded with a $476,000 state grant, will run through February 2012.

That’s hardly enough time to make the airport self-sufficient. Will this work at all? It’s being done at other Michigan airports. More crops also could help offset carbon emissions from air travel, although the production of biofuels can have a negative energy balance, depending on production methods.

The AgriEnergy Technology Demonstration project will be done on only 3 acres atDetroit Metro, and is expected to yield 300 gallons of fuel this summer, The News-Herald reports. Remember, 1 million-plus gallons are needed per airport.

I guess you can say it’s a start. We’ll have to see how the project plays out, especially with other environmental projects at airports that have sparked Federal Aviation Administration concerns over bird strikes; the FAA was part of the planning process at Metro, however.

The Detroit project is part of an Aerotropolis (snicker) concept at Metro, to attract business to areas around airports. A long-term vision for Metro is to build a processing plant on or near the airport, piping home-made jet fuel to planes.