Majority of travelers admit they don’t care about their carbon output

Dutch bank ING asked their economic survey team to interview travelers about their opinion of CO2 output, and whether they really care about their impact on the environment.

As it turns out, only 15% of the 41,900 travelers interviewed actually do something about the environment. Of that 15%, only 3% actively try to offset their emissions, while others only admit to making a minor effort at it.

76% of travelers simply don’t care, and 9% has “no opinion”. Despite all the efforts to change the public awareness of CO2 emissions, only a small portion of people actually care.

This data is interesting, because people are slowly starting to realize that carbon offsets are not going to be the solution to the problem – the real solution is to actually reduce the emissions instead of trying to offset them by planting a couple of trees. Airlines like starting to experiment with bio fuels, and others are making small changes to their flight procedures. Of course, these measures are still in their infancy, but every little bit helps.

(Data from ING Survey)

In this second survey, all respondents were asked how much they’d be willing to pay in order to offset the emissions from their trip. Once again, 75% said they wouldn’t want to pay a penny. Oddly enough, 2% said they’d gladly pay more than 150 euro for the idea that they are not impacting the environment when they travel.

Continental Airlines experiments with algae jet fuel mix

On Wednesday, Continental Airlines flew a Boeing 737 from Houston in a circle over the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing too special about that. Except that this flight was a test of a new 50/50 jet fuel/biofuel mixture, powering one of the engines.

The bio portion of the fuel was a mix of algae and jatropha oil, an alternative fuel that can be grown in poor soil, yet is able to produce more yields than soybean. The fuel was approved for aviation use last year, and meets or exceeds all requirements for a jet fuel.

The jet was not the first biofuel powered airplane. Early last year, Virgin Atlantic flew a 747 from London to Amsterdam powered partially by coconut oil.

Most experts agree that the aviation industry will have to invest heavily in finding alternative fuels, but given how much is at stake during these trials it is understandable that they take things kind of slow.

This trial was a huge success, and the test pilot called it “textbook”. Whether or not we’ll start flying in coconut and algae powered jets any time soon, will all depend on how quickly these new crops can be grown on a massive scale. The amount of biofuel required to become a really viable alternative is quite staggering.

(Via: BBC News)

Boeing and Air New Zealand to Test 2nd Generation Biofuel

Boeing has announced that it will carry out tests of a new “2nd generation” biofuel using one of its 747s. The plane,owned by Air New Zealand will take off on December 13th. Because it is the first live test, only one of the plane’s 4 engines will use the fuel, made from the nuts of jatropha plants (pictured).

Jatropha is an inedible plant that is indigenous to Central America and the Caribbean, but grows in most of the warm weather regions of the world. Unlike earlier biofuel sources, which were grown on arable farmland, jatropha grows well in areas that cannot be used for agriculture. Its use, therefore, will not affect food prices or food supply.

The fuel is made by extracting the oil from the nuts of the plant. UOP, whose parent company is Honeywell, is responsible for producing the jatropha-fuel. According to Boeing, UOP’s production was “the world’s first large-scale production run of a commercially viable and sustainable biofuel for aviation use.” The biofuel will be mixed with regular jet fuel for the December 13th test.

[Via The Register]

Experts question biofuel use while Virgin fuels flight with coconut-oil

I’ve always had an intellectual crush on Richard Branson. He is one of the most fearless high-achievers I can think of today and never fails to surprise. So, when I read that his new idea that involved operating one of Virgin’s Boeing 747’s on jet-fuel (80%) and the oil from 150,000 coconuts was a preliminary success, I was, yet again, bamboozled.

The 40-minute flight from London to Amsterdam demonstrated the successful use of biofuels for the first time on a commercial flight and could possibly lead to a revolution in environmentally friendly aviation.

Many airline companies in association with the CAAFI have been working on using alternative fuels for their planes: synthetic jet-fuel, fuel derived from coal, gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuel. Earlier this month a 3-hour test flight by Airbus 380 was successful using GTL, the plane didn’t realize the difference and it was marked as the first step towards developing biofuel (biomass-to-liquid).

Although this would not be used (yet) for commercial flights, Branson’s bold attempt to jump the boat and get straight to experimenting with biofuel has, of course, caused an uproar among environmental groups: using coconut-oil on a large scale has many detrimental effects in the countries it comes from, encourages deforestation, etc.Branson’s next step is to nurture algae — a sustainable next-generation oil — to perhaps achieve the same on a larger scale. This idea, of course, has also been attacked along with mounting evidence that biofuels in fact do not reduce carbon emissions, and that algae may produce more carbon dioxide rather than not.

Initially, alternative fuels that will eventually lead to use of sustainable biofuels was the answer to responsible air and road travel; now, thanks to new evidence, another study on the environmental and economic impact of biofuels has been demanded for.

What’s admirable about Branson is that he doesn’t waste time or banter, he just comes up with a valid solution that no one has thought of, or thought of but not had the guts to give it a try. Everyone else just seems to keep coming up with studies and theories, and studies and theories. And after all these studies and theories(!), why are we going around in pointless circles?