Biofuel 2.0 gets off ground in Kiwi airliner trial
Oily desert nuts juice up righteous jumbo
Air New Zealand has announced that its planned airliner biofuel test will be carried out using biodiesel made from jatropha nuts. Jatropha plants, able to survive in deserts, could offer a biofuel source which would not compete with food production or drive deforestation.
"Air New Zealand is absolutely committed to being at the forefront of testing environmentally sustainable fuels," said the airline's chief, Rob Fyfe, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The test will be carried out later this year, using a Boeing 747 with engines from Rolls Royce. Boeing has been at the forefront of an industry push toward alternative fuels since last year, following soaring rises in the price of ordinary fossil jet fuel.
Earlier tests have seen aircraft running without problems on synthetics made from natural gas and coal, and Virgin partnered with Boeing earlier this year to power a jumbo using coconut and palm oils.
All of these efforts have drawn criticism, however. Alternate fossil fuels, while they could offer some security of supply and price, have no ecological benefits - quite the reverse, actually, as a tonne of gas or coal is burned for every tonne converted into synthetic jet juice. First-generation biofuel sources like coconut and palm are usually seen as lower-carbon - though just how much is a subject of vigorous debate - but they are also implicated in rising food prices and deforestation. It has also been credibly suggested that in any case, there just isn't enough farmland to run much transport on first-gen crop biofuel.
So-called second generation biofuels like jatropha or algae which don't need good land are seen by many in the aviation industry as their best way ahead. The technical problems of alternative propulsion for planes are much more severe than in cars, meaning that options such as battery power, hydrogen and so on aren't seen as viable.
Thus the ANZ trial is sure to be watched with interest. The airline believes it would need plantations totalling 1.25 million hectares to run entirely on jatropha. In the case of first-gen biofuel, that would equate to about 85 per cent of New Zealand's arable land, but hardy jatropha might, for instance, be grown in the deserts of Australia. There are 1.4 million square kilometres of deserts in Oz, enough to fuel a hundred airlines the size of ANZ if they were all covered in jatropha plants. ®
still thinking inside the box, going nowhere but merry go around.
Time to think outside the box, thing of magnet power, wind dynamic power, and water power.
@Perpetual Cyclist, also: rant
You're such a cheery, uplifting type. Great bedtime reading.
My understanding of peak oil is that peak oil is the point where we have reached the maximum barrels/day that this planet will ever produce, and from there on in, production will only decline. As production declines, and demand grows, of course, prices will rise, and we are all...well...you know...
Have we reached peak oil though? I don't know about that. In fact, I honestly doubt it. (Full disclosure, I live in a province with one of he largest reserves of oil in the world, and our economy is overheating trying to get it all out of the ground yesterday.) I think we have a ways yet to go on peak oil, not because there are more reserves than stated, or because demand will fall, but because more and more money and talent is being put into exploiting the last remaining reserves on earth.
The debate is academic, really, because nobody, regardless of what they say, honestly knows the production values of every oil company on earth even over the past ten years, let alone into the future. (So many lies have been told, and figured fudged humanity may never know the true tale.) That said, let me paint a different picture:
I believe that we still have at least a decade, maybe more of rising production, as new technologies come on-stream, and we simultaneously run every reserve dry in our quest for that last, final drop. When that peak is crested, however, there will be no gradual economic slowdown, not even a "depression" like the early 20th century. The curve won't be bell shaped, it will reach a peak, and then plummet. With 10, 20, maybe even 30 years ahead of us, my dad, the elder Bush family, that whole generation can die happy, never having seen the hell that they hath wrought.
I, on the other hand, by the time I am their age, will probably survive just long enough to be killed by a friend or neighbour for food, water, or gasoline. It hurts my green, left-leaning soul to say this, but...environmentalism is a huge, tragic mistake. Certainly, pollution, renewable energy, happy pandas and environmental toxins matter, and they are important. The harsh, harsh truth, however, is that the money going towards everything except solving the growing food crisis, population boom, and finding new, renewable sources of energy is a tragic waste that could well be the doom of us all.
We need to stop having so many babies. We need to find food to feed those we've got, and by the gods, we need to save every last precious drop of oil we have, because there so very, very many things that we make out of it that we have absolutely no (viable) way of making any other way. An example? Plastics. We can recycle only so hard. Certain plants can be used to make plastics, (that involves quite a bit of hocus pocus, from what I understand,) but it would never meet even the smallest fraction of demand. Having a healthy, green earth won't do us any good if we wipe ourselves trying to control the last remaining resources on earth. And if we DO get to wiping ourselves out, after a few thousand years, those who (might) survive should have a healthy, green earth...with no oil.
Now of course, these are opinions based entirely on my personal paranoia, research on the internets, and via a few interesting scientific journals, and a healthy dose of alarmism, but they may yet be valid. Your mileage may, of course, vary.
Dead vulture, because I'm probably allready to old to survive the looming resource wars.
Not sure what you're saying. Peak oil is physical reality. Agreed we haven't begun to feel the full economic implications yet, but we will, probably in the next two years. Sure China is building 10M extra cars a year, but if they can't pump or buy the oil, then they aren't going to be driven very far.
Oil represented about 1% of global GDP ten years ago. At $130 it represents 6.5%. About half this price is the real cost of developing new oil fields and pumping old ones, the rest is profit which is (to a large extent) recycled into the larger economy. It simply means the rich get richer whilst the poor get poorer.
The oil price is rising hyperbolically (faster than exponentially). So is the real cost of new oil production. Once (real) total energy costs reach about 15% of GDP, modern industrial civilisation becomes untenable. At current rate of increase, we reach that point in under two years. The price of oil cannot then increase further (in real terms - ignoring hyperinflation). The world economy MUST then shrink in line with the oil supply. All business as usual economic models then become invalid. Total financial collapse is inevitable.