Feeds

Virgin biofuel jumbo trials won't use algae

As UK.gov reviews food-powered fuel policy

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Trials of biofuels for airliners will use conventional, controversial feedstocks, it has been reported. Virgin Atlantic and Boeing had hoped to employ so-called "second-generation" biofuel feedstocks such as algae which wouldn't threaten food production or biodiversity. The news comes as the UK government has announced a review of potential downsides to biofuel use.

Speaking to Flight International at the Singapore Air Show, Boeing environmental-tech exec Dave Daggett confirmed that the Virgin biofuel trials this year would use ordinary feedstocks. However, Virgin Atlantic representatives maintained that it still "could be algae".

Conventional or "first generation" biofuels are made from crops such as corn or palm oil, the production of which uses farmland which might otherwise feed people. If in future the human race were to begin using biofuels in the quantities that it currently uses fossil petroleum, huge amounts more cropland could be required - perhaps threatening already fast-disappearing rainforests. Even with a huge expansion of farming, food prices would be likely to rise and poor people could starve.

Such worries have badly tarnished the image of biofuels in recent years, leading to the new Whitehall review.

"The UK government takes this issue very seriously. We are not prepared to go beyond current UK target levels for biofuels until we are satisfied it can be done sustainably," said transport secretary Ruth Kelly yesterday.

The UK will still require all transport fuel to be 2.5 per cent biofuel from April, however.

So-called "second generation" biofuels might be derived from feedstocks such as saltwater algae, which would not appear to carry the same deforestation and food risks as regular types.

Shell, for instance, has recently kicked off a research programme into this kind of tech: and the US military, keen to be independent of unreliable Gulf oil producers, are also interested.

Boeing, Virgin and Air New Zealand plan to test 747s on biofuel blends this year. However, it appears likely that initially these will use the more controversial crop-based stuff rather than snazzier scum-sourced juice. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.