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]

New algae-based jet fuel passes aviation standards

Biofuels are a hot item these days; and not only in the automotive industry. Several companies have been working on alternatives to petroleum-based aviation fuels, but as of now, none are available on a commercial scale. But research and development is in full swing, and Wednesday marked another milestone in the path towards alternative aviation fuels when an algae-based biofuel passed the ASTM’s standard for “Aviation Turbine Fuel”.

Produced by Solazyme, the fuel is a bio-kerosene that is in fact derived from algae. According to Scientific American, the fuel is superior to other biofuels because it doesn’t freeze at high altitude. On top of that it has the same density as regular Jet-A, which other alternative fuels, derived from natural gas or coal, don’t have.

But don’t expect algae-based fueling stations at your local airport just yet. Solazyme doesn’t own the infrastructure to produce it on a large scale, and in the end, it’s all about money. “If we had our own equipment we could make millions of gallons,” says CEO Jonathan Wolfson. But the “capital involved in owning that equipment is massive.”

[Via Treehugger]

Could biofuel cause starvation?

My friend has a sticker on his bike that reads “I don’t need a war to power my bike.” Indeed, it seems that biking (or good old-fashioned hoofing it) might be one of the last conflict-free modes of transportation. As alternative fuel options are explored in order to lessen the world’s dependency on oil, it appears that the same old problems aren’t going to go away.

Take biofuel, for example.

The managing director general of the Asian Development Bank, Rajat Nag, suggests that governments who subsidize biofuel production are contributing to global starvation.

“Giving subsidies for biofuels … basically acts as an implicit tax on staple foods,” he says.

What this means is that if a country is focused on producing fuel, then it’s not focused on producing food. With riots erupting over the past few weeks over food shortages in the Caribbean and Africa, it’s obvious that the world is approaching a crisis point. The U.S., for example, is the largest producer of ethanol, which is produced from corn and other grain crops. The U.S. government has heavily subsidized ethanol production, paying farmer to produce ethanol.

I love the idea of running my car on recycled vegetable oil, and it seems like that is what the grass-roots biofuel movement is all about. But turning the world’s fields into ethanol producers does not seem like a long-term solution.