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Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Oct 27

Commercial Flights Approved for Biofuels by 2010

Posted in Biofuels | Energy Politics | Transportation

Commercial Flights Biofuels The International Air Transport Association (IATA) wants to reduce its carbon footprints. That’s why they announced their quest to find a biofuel by 2010 for its commercial flights. Paul Steele was in New Delhi, India. He said to the reporters that IATA is serious about biofuels for commercial flights and it would be certified “by the end of next year”. Paul Steele is the head of the environmental initiatives of IATA. As we are all familiar that certification is broadly regarded as a primary technical step that could do away with some of the investment uncertainties plugging the use of high quality biofuels in aviation. IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani reaffirms what Paul Steele was saying. Giovanni Bisignani claims, “For the first time, air transport has the possibility of an alternative to traditional jet fuel.”


If the aviation industry can reduce its dependency on fossil fuel then it will be considered a major landmark achievement for the advocates of clean and green energy. According to IATA estimates, aviation biofuel could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent “on a full carbon life-cycle basis.” The same step will reduce 600 kilogrammes (176 pounds) of emissions per flight on a Boeing 747-400 plane.

Another good point is that the aircraft engines don’t need to be altered at all if they have to run on biofuels. It’s every manufacturer’s dream. It has been backed up by test flights by carriers intended to “decouple traffic growth from emissions growth.” It was found that biofuel and traditional fuel could be successfully blended without changes to aircraft engines. According to Paul Steele there is a hitch or hurdle. Airlines would like to control costs and procure biofuels without altering or affecting the food chain. Because there is a real danger that people will start producing bofuels related plants and neglect the cultivation of food crops because that won’t be profitable enough. Production of biofuel plants may also affect or rather strain the water supplies.

But making aircrafts biofuel dependent is just a part of IATA’s endeavor to reduce carbon in its usage, according to Bisignani. The basic purpose is to make nations aware of the fact that’s the aviation industry must be treated as a separate entity for developing and implemting cleaner fuel technologies before the upcoming international climate change talks on Copenhagen.

“If not, we face the risk of uncoordinated competitive government taxation that won’t reduce emissions but will be harmful to global economic development,” said Bisignani.

  • Matthew Elton

    I hope they’re not using ethanol made from corn. Food us more important than airplane fuel.

  • Elliot Harkavy

    We are on the verge of being able to make the ethanol from the stalks and other waste materials, like grasses.

  • Jeff Carmen

    Bio-fuel is not just corn. Soy bio-fuel has been used in the marine industry for a few years now.

  • Ingrid Elkner

    But hey, aren’t there gigantic issues with bio-fuels? Maybe people need to learn stop consuming so damn much. Just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should have it!

  • Chris Foreman

    What about algae biofuel? I thought this was easier to get to aviation grade.

  • Ron David

    I believe they’re using Jatropha as well.

  • Benjamin Vee

    Thank you Ingrid! At least one of you is thinking. Not that the rest of you are not, necessarily. Why DO people need to consume so much?

    More accurately: Why do people need to consume so much energy? Certainly, they do not. It sure would be refreshing to see people putting as much effort/thought into lowering their energy consumption as much as “feeling good” about where it’s coming from. Go Green!

    It reminds me of repenting every Sunday, and then everything is just fine…

    I am wondering why there are so very people talking about how there are just way too many people anyway. Unfortunately, Ingrid, it is always the people you would rather not reproduce that end up having 5, or (God forbid), 8 kids.

    My my. People make me physically ill when I think about them.

  • Joshua A. Lowery

    Folks need to calm down a bit on the belief that only food sources are going to be used for the aircraft grade biofuel. Currently, there are five (5) large engineering companies here in the Midwest United States (where food production/quality is an ever-present concern) who have proven formulas, workable /sustainable chemistry, and field tests completed for both commercial and military grade aircraft biofuel. They approached this endeavor with the understanding to safeguard food supplies and use bio/waste materials. So, Mr. Harkavy you are correct that we were on the verge about 2 years ago (we’re now in the transition stage between pilot plants to production size facilities).

    People need to remember to read up on their chemistry and aerothemal-chemistry also. Fuel has to endure and perform in fairly harsh and dynamic conditions when powering through our stratosphere. Rapid temperature and pressure changes, along with diminishing amounts of oxygen to combust any fuel (whether it is bio-fuel or not) are just some of the various issues chemical, mechanical, and aerospace engineers have to look at when designing more efficient flight systems. Remember our typical automobile fuel systems are designed to operate within a certain range of efficiency at or around sea level atmospherically speaking. To better illustrate and broaden understanding try driving your car up into highly mountainous areas where the altitude is any where from 1000ft or greater above sea level and see how well your engine operates.

    Also, people need to remember industry’s efforts to find alternative fuels is at best a short term energy plan and that proper planning of mass transit systems and other more efficient modes of transportation is everyone by now knows is integral to our future successes (both ecologically and socially).

  • Karen Iwamoto

    @Joshua – Hooray! thanks for that well-reasoned reply. Takes a bit of effort to actually formulate a proper response instead of a soundbite.

    a) food for biofuels now seems to be old technology and I don’t think anyone is really considering that anymore (although I could be wrong) – seems like agricultural waste (the parts of the plant you DON’T eat – corn husks, stalks, etc) and cover crops like switch grass could be employed as well as other higher-tech solutions. How come no one is planting biofuel sources (like cellulose-based technology plants like switch grass) on the land that we’ve already destroyed? Like landfills, hazardous waste sites, interstate medians, etc? we need some sort of cover crop there anyway – why not something we can use for fuel?

    b) the traditional biofuels that we can get around here for home heating & private vehicles turns to sludge around 40 degrees. no way would that work in an airplane based on the temperatures of the atmosphere that planes fly in. Never mind the whole engine performance issue. it’s a bit premature to suddenly make the jump that jets will fly on food based fuel or used vegetable oil.

  • Joshua A. Lowery

    Ms. Iwamoto, I can’t blame folks for getting emotional and regurgitating sound btes they have heard or want to believe. It just proves that they care, which is a great thing.

    Everyone needs to educate themselves by investigating the different technologies, testing them, weighing the moral/ethical uses of,etc. first hand before tearing down a technology/process and its application. And if they don’t understand something, ask questions instead of saying flat out that it won’t work or should not be done.

    As for your point a) I agree with you and your great thoughts of dual usage of existing landfills (although I would be concerned with possible hydrogen sulfide emission exposure for the plants/people harvesting them), interstate medians, etc. However, I believe the reason that this idea may encounter resistance is due to legal issues instead of whether or not it is possible/good idea. Lawyers, insurance companies, and/or other private interest groups could tie up usage/production with litigation over many areas of concern (ranging from public vs. private domain, who gets to produce the biofuel, who gets to buy it, where and who will get any profits if any are turned, workers rights while cultivating/harvesting, union vs. non-union, and the list goes on).

    As for your point b) I am glad that you are looking at the issue logically and are on target with things being premature for utilizing used vegetable oil for aviation fuels. The used vegetable oil could be used but with a lot of extra chemical additives and molecular modification which is cost prohibitive. This is due to the problem of inconsistencies in the used oil (ie one batch may vary greatly from another due to what was cooked in the oils) which would cause production costs to go up again due to the need for increased quality control testing, extra additive mixes, and power generation requirements to crack the used oil to required levels.

    I think our species will eventually come to amicable/workable solutions here soon if for no other reason than we will have no other choices.

  • Peter Vandaele

    Indeed, some of the more emotional reactions simply show people care and that is great. And Benjamin has a point: we can’t stress enough the need to lower our needs of energy, we are consuming way to much of it. Whatever the solution or more precisely the combination of solutions will be applied, it always will have an impact. If we want to restore some kind of balance with our environment, which we have lost a long time ago, using less energy will be key. And also there technology can really help. I work at a company as an instructor, which means a lot of travelling. Although I love it personally, some of these courses could be done by remote tools (plenty of them already) and of course by qualifying people locally so that instructors don’t need to travel the globe all the time. Only a small example of how the state of mind needs to change and that will take time.

    There is indeed a huge population pressure on our planet. Everyone has the right to lead a good life, without hunger and our basic need fulfilled. It is difficult but we might want to think about lower the level of luxury we have in the west and make more room for other people to get a higher level of life, without augmenting the total impact on our planet. When the level of life goes up, the number of children people tend to have lowers automatically. This high number is typically a strategy when there is a high probability of children dying (make sure there are enough children to make sure at least of few survive to carry on your genes) and no social security (so people need to make sure enough children survive so as to take care of their parents at old age).

    Thanks to Joshua and Karen for the interesting info on possible bio-fuels solutions. Very educational.

    This site really gives me a sense that there is a huge effort going on globally to resolve the many challenges that we are facing.


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