Sustainable Aviation: Bio-Fuels Reach the Stratosphere

By Holy Solar

Flying the Earth-Friendly Skies

Biofuel enthusiasts have been saying for a long time that the sky is the limit for organically-based, sustainable transportation solutions. Now, that barrier, too, seems to have been rapidly passed. With the announcement of the world’s very first organically produced aviation fuel from micro-algae, San Francisco biofuel pioneer Solazyme may have helped solve the missing link in the alternative energy puzzle.

The new jet fuel, which is made from algal culture grown in vats from a sugar medium, addresses the enormous global issues tied up with petrochemicals as fuel for flight, just in time for the sixth anniversary of the Word Trade Center destruction. This development comes on the heels of tests earlier this year by Virgin Airlines, which has since moved its program to Europe.

There is tremendous philosophical significance in this announcement, as it heralds a time in the near future when air travel which does not have the political or environmental implications of fossil fuels so candidly illustrated by that devastating event. Jet fuel is an energy cost hidden to the average consumer, who generally only feels the impact indirectly as part of airline fares.

With this innovation, it has now become technically feasible to power every sector of industrial, transportation, and residential electrical needs, all by means of a renewable energy source. This is a milestone to give a little cheer about, and that it has been accomplished in so little time should serve as encouragement to those of us concerned with a sustainable energy policy.

The process will still need some perfecting, and the political will to wrest lucrative jet fuel contracts from the oil companies may be in shorter supply than oil itself. Nevertheless, we are seeing again and again that Nature offers an answer for a post-petroleum revolution.

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Topics: Alternative Energy News, Biofuels, Green Technology, Sustainable Energy | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Sustainable Aviation: Bio-Fuels Reach the Stratosphere”

  1. dan Mihaliak
    2:19 pm on September 26th, 2008

    So the sky is no longer the limit? Is it now outer space?

  2. Shantell
    7:42 am on October 28th, 2008

    Well said.

  3. Mika
    7:16 pm on December 12th, 2015

    The green wars are played with words and atrnmeugs as well as facts and figures. Cherry picking information is a favorite pastime and everywhere you will see someone arguing from a point of view rather than an analysis of information. Your use of the phrase emissions associated with hybrids is curious. Current hybrids are gasoline and electric. No widely marketed hybrid uses grid electricity. They don’t presently plug in. They use gasoline to produce electricity for an electric drive. The emissions associated with hybrids are then based upon fuel use in a internal combustion engine. Diesel is not usual for a hybrid drive as there are fewer advantages going from diesel to hybrid than from gasoline to hybrid. Therefore the renewable energy source you are looking for must produce the biofuel ethanol and not biodiesel and any article that discusses a renewable way to produce ethanol should satisfy your search.You could use the sun to produce biofuels and reduce the use of fossil fuels. You could use geothermal power to produce biofuels and reduce fossil fuels. And you could even use moonlight to produce biofuels and reduce fossil fuel use. All might reduce CO2 emissions to some degree. But being green (I have never liked the term) may imply more than just a measure of emissions.1 The sun may take up a lot of land. Geothermal may contaminate water supplies or cause Earthquakes, moonlight may be inadequate, and nuclear power may have by products no society could guarantee could be made safe before the decline of the civilization. The perfect answer today may be no more than a best fit that is dismissed tomorrow in light of new information.Perhaps one of the best examples of renewable production of ethanol is in Brazil where the initial feedstock of sugarcane is also provides energy to produce the product: 1 This article (2) has a great comparison table that shows why the Brazilian ethanol production from sugarcane is more efficient and renewable the the US ethanol production from corn. Here is some literature put out by the Minnesota Corn Growers association that you may find helpful.3A more directed answer could be made if you had included any references to the original article.


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