Feeds

Virgin biofuel jumbo trials won't use algae

As UK.gov reviews food-powered fuel policy

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.