Fly the biofuel skies…
January 8, 2009 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Today Boeing completed the first test flight of a commercial jet-liner using a mix of conventional jet-fuel and a fuel created from algae and the african weed jatropha. Boeing hopes that biofueled flights will be common in just three years.
posted by Artw (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm thinking Boeing is hoping any flights will be common in three years. Stock.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2009


I dub the resulting green chemtrails "oobleck".
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why? I thought biofuels ended up with a bigger carbon footprint, cost more to produce, and hurt the global food supply.
posted by aapep at 10:30 AM on January 8, 2009


a bigger carbon footprint, cost more to produce, and hurt the global food supply

FUD. And that last one is a double FUD, since algae and jatropha aren't food items anyway. (Blah blah blah farmland. World hunger is not a land problem and in any case it can be grown elsewhere, such as the ocean.)
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking Boeing is hoping any flights will be common in three years. Stock.

What do you think you see in that stock chart? You might want to compare it to the indexes.
posted by smackfu at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2009


FUD

Windfarms attract UFOs!
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2009


I'm thinking Boeing is hoping any flights will be common in three years.

?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on January 8, 2009


Solar panels give you cancer!
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on January 8, 2009


Why? I thought biofuels ended up with a bigger carbon footprint, cost more to produce, and hurt the global food supply.

Yes, if you insist on making them from food crops not well suited to the task, like corn or soybeans. But when you make biofuels from rapeseed or jatropha, you actually end up with what you'd expect - more output than input.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:02 AM on January 8, 2009


But when you make biofuels from rapeseed or jatropha

...or fat people
posted by qvantamon at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2009


Soylent Green Fuel.
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on January 8, 2009


today was not the first test filght.
apologies for the pedantry.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:23 AM on January 8, 2009


kuujjuarapik, neither was the AirNZ flight the first. In early 2008 Virgin Atlantic flew the first commercial flight powered with a blend of biofuel.

But to be completely pedantic, the OP was correct in that yesterday's flight was the first "using a mix of conventional jet-fuel and a fuel created from algae and the african weed jatropha." The previous ones had different fuel blends.
posted by boydmain at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2009


Bah. First test flight with two engines or something I guess.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on January 8, 2009


Blah blah blah farmland.

That is the single stupidest thing I've ever read unless, of course, you've got a plan to generate food from John Galt's magical free energy machine.
posted by stet at 11:37 AM on January 8, 2009


I didn't say you don't need farmland to grow food. I'm implying that "blah blah blah farmland" is not a reason to hate on biofuels because biofuels need not compete for (food) farmland.
posted by DU at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2009


I was okay with it until I saw the exhaust was spitting out seahorses and starfish. At first I was, like, WHOAH, but then they all exploded in the air, and I was briefly, like, OH!, but then I was all AWWW NO.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2009


Get worried when Airforce One starts emitting rainbows and unicorns, and liberal bloggers start disappearing.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ooh! David Plouffe just invited me to a special secret event!
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on January 8, 2009


Why? I thought biofuels ended up with a bigger carbon footprint, cost more to produce, and hurt the global food supply.

All biofuels are not created equal.

Corn ethanol runs into all of these problems at current production levels, ethanol from sugarcane seems to be significantly better. Cellulosic ethanol could do better still, since it uses the entire corn plants as opposed to just the kernels, or crops like switchgrass which grow with relatively little water or fertilizer on marginal farmland.

Algae is something else entirely. I have very high hopes for algae: the processing (biomass->fuel) is potentially very simple and cheap, it can be grown on marginal land with wastewater, or even in saltwater ponds, and the growth rates and potential biomass/area are just enormous. There are some big obstacles that need to be overcome before it's economical, however. Pond contamination is a big one. In open ponds, it's easy for a bug to get in and kill the algae, but closed systems are incredibly expensive.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Big deal, I know people who've been flying high on African weed for years now.

Kidding aside, I'm thinking that bio-jet fuel is pretty badass.
posted by quin at 1:18 PM on January 8, 2009


This is the way out of economic decline: by paying ourselves to make jet fuel, or any fuel for that matter.
posted by Brian B. at 3:02 PM on January 8, 2009


(I'm not particularly convinced that even corn ethanol would impact the food supply, but if by choosing a higher yield plant I can also avoid arguments, I'm all for it.)
posted by DU at 5:56 PM on January 8, 2009


Artw writes "Windfarms attract UFOs!"

That is a bonus.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:25 PM on January 8, 2009


Boeing hopes that biofueled flights will be common in just three years.

Not very likely with petroleum trading in the $40-$50 range.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:22 PM on January 8, 2009


It seems to me that algae-sourced fuels have become a viable fuel source pretty fucking quickly. I suspect the capability has existed for quite some time, and was never offered as an alternative because, hey, the oil companies always get their way.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:53 PM on January 8, 2009


It seems to me that algae-sourced fuels have become a viable fuel source pretty fucking quickly.

Algae-biofuel research has been off and onn since at least 1978, and it still isn't clear that they are a viable fuel source.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:39 AM on January 9, 2009


The DOE ran a massive, massive algae project from '78-'98, and a lot of good work was done, but in the end they just couldn't get the costs down low enough. The results are still there, though, and people really started picking it up last year when oil prices shot up. We'll see what happens.

Here's the concluding report from the DOE project...
posted by mr_roboto at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2009


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