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Transportation Earth Technology

Honeywell & Airbus To Turn Algae Into Jet Fuel 273

Posted by kdawson
from the little-animalcules-powering-bug-jets dept.
mystermarque alerts us to an announcement by Honeywell, JetBlue Airways, International Aero Engines, and Airbus about a program to develop jet fuel from algae and other biomass. They hope to supply nearly 1/3 of the demand for jet fuel from these sources by 2030. A Wall Street Journal blog points out that even if this program's goals are met, we will be worse off by 2030 in terms of jet kerosene released into the atmosphere, assuming that the rapid growth in the aviation sector continues apace.
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Honeywell & Airbus To Turn Algae Into Jet Fuel

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  • by pete_norm (150498) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:40AM (#23435610)

    A Wall Street Journal blog points out that even if this program's goals are met, we will be worse off by 2030 in terms of jet kerosene released into the atmosphere, assuming that the rapid growth in the aviation sector continues apace.


    I guess we better do nothing then and abandon this project...
    • by WinPimp2K (301497) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:49AM (#23435786)
      Nah, this is no place for half measures. We must obviously elimiminate all jet kerosene releases by 2030.

      All hands: Abandon Planet! Abandon Planet!

      Then we can nuke the site from orbit. It is the only way to make sure.
    • ... that "rapid growth in the aviation sector continues apace". For one thing, the cost of jet fuel is going to continue to rise, which is going to make continued growth in air travel cost prohibitive. For another, there's simply no more room at airports to add flights, even if cost wasn't a consideration. I think that air travel is going to remain flat at most, and more likely, will decline at least somewhat.
  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Uncle Focker (1277658) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:40AM (#23435614)

    A Wall Street Journal blog points out that even if this program's goals are met, we will be worse off by 2030 in terms of jet kerosene released into the atmosphere, assuming that the rapid growth in the aviation sector continues apace.
    Maybe, maybe not. Why should that stop people from trying to make at least some sort of positive gain on this front? I'm getting rather sick of these naysayers who have to crap on every attempt at some new technology because it's not going to be the be all, end all solution to the problem at this exact moment in time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054)
      A wall street Journal BLOG? This is now a source?

      As for the Rapid Growth in the Aviation sector, precisely where is that growth? There are fewer flights today than there were 5 years ago.

      And as older planes are replaced the newer ones are more efficient.

      • Re:So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by wizbit (122290) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:16PM (#23436232)

        There are fewer flights today than there were 5 years ago.
        [citation needed]

        If anything, there are an order of magnitude *more* takeoffs and landings than 5 years ago thanks to the explosion in regional airline flights - the puddlejumpers that hold 50 passengers and fly from Detroit to St. Louis instead of NYC to LA.

        This has actually contributed to delayed/canceled flights, which have also skyrocketed, but that's more an infrastructure and logistics problem.

        Fewer people are flying on those planes, but this also lets the airline offer more flights, which passengers have requested again and again - more travel options.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Your Pal Dave (33229)

        As for the Rapid Growth in the Aviation sector, precisely where is that growth?
        Asia, China [google.com] and India specifically.
  • Some assumption. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jesdynf (42915) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:45AM (#23435704) Homepage
    Rapid growth in aviation continuing?

    You think so?

    I suppose I don't know a lot about the topic, but domestic aviation's more important to the US than to just about anybody else, innit? And the US airlines are busy melting down.

    The question was "aviation", and not "domestic aviation", but I think domestic flights are where most miles are racked up yearly.
    • by homer_ca (144738) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:52AM (#23435842)
      You're talking about economists here, and economists have no problem extrapolating exponential growth indefinitely to the future, never mind the physical limits of the planet. You're right about US aviation collapsing. Anybody who can afford it, meaning corporate VPs and up, are abandoning commercial flights in droves. You'd be a fool not to.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garyrich (30652)
      Just because the airlines can't make money doesn't mean that people won't fly and won't fly more and more. Airlines have never made a long term profit since the Wright brothers. Despite that people fly more and more and the presence of the airlines are a big stimulus to the economy.

      Does anyone remember when all the US flights were grounded after the twin tower bombings? The US economy came to a complete halt.

      This is also obviously global, not just US. China is the big grower in flight miles in the next 3
      • by homer_ca (144738)
        Part of that was that check clearing was still done by paper through US mail that was flown around the country. That was a big motivation for finally getting electronic clearing checks.
  • by blhack (921171) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:47AM (#23435738)
    Algae is made out of carbon!

    Don't anybody tell the hippies!

    Look, if they're doing this to save money, then great, good for them. If they're doing it to help our economy by keeping everything in house (and not installing a pipeline of cash from here to Saudi Arabia) then awesome! But if they're doing this to somehow trick themselves into believing that they are "helping the cause" then they need to pull their head out of their ass.

    We NEED hydrogen power. Not fuel cells, not batteries, combustion of hydrogen and oxygen into water. Electrolysis is not difficult.

    Step 1: Build nuclear power plant
    Step 2: Split salt water into hydrogen and oxygen
    Step 3: Profit
    Step 4: Goto 1

    This crap that we're doing right now is hurting the problem. Driving a Prius isn't helping, buying a hybrid Chevy Suburban isn't helping. Elect officials that build mass transit systems. Our cities our built with the assumption that people can very cheaply get from one end of it to the other, but they can't anymore.

    Priuses and other hybrids are not addressing the root of the problem, which is our assumption of cheap transportation. THAT is what we need to cure. The neo-hippies with their lattes and they horn rimmed glasses are not helping the cause, they're hurting it by buying into a false reality and encouraging others to do so.
    • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:49AM (#23435790)
      where does algae get its carbon?
      • by Starteck81 (917280) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:52AM (#23435830)

        where does algae get its carbon?

        Ducks?
        • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:56AM (#23435910)
          haha. anyway, the grandparent poster was talking about people with their head up their ass when that's where he stores his. taking carbon from the air to release it back again is better than what we're doing now.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Starteck81 (917280)
            Sorry for the bad Monty Python reference. :-)

            I completely agree with you. At least when you pull the carbon from the air and put it back you are maintaining an equilibrium instead of bringing carbon stored in the ground an releasing it into the air.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)
              I completely agree with you. At least when you pull the carbon from the air and put it back you are maintaining an equilibrium instead of bringing carbon stored in the ground an releasing it into the air.

              Except you don't. You pull it from the oceans. Both from upper & lower layers.

              But the oceans contain MUCH more carbon than the oil fields, and that *will* be brought up, because algae NEED co2 (like every single plant does), and for plants more co2=better (plant growth climbs until they have about 60% c
      • by PPH (736903)


        One good place for algae to get carbon is from the CO2 emissions of coal and other combustion plants. Burn more coal to make more electricity. Use that excess electricity to electrolize H2O for hydrogen fuel. Capture the plant emmissions to grow pond scum for fuel.


        Some people power their vehicles with hydrogen, some with pond scum.

      • From CO2. That's why they're using algae as smokestack scrubbers. [typepad.com]

        It pulls greenhouse gasses out of the air for photosynthesis, same way larger plants do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Twanfox (185252)
          That's lovely, except that it doesn't address the net carbon change to the ecosystem. What is being burned that is releasing CO2? Coal? So what you're doing is still taking carbon out of the ground (outside the ecosystem) and instead of dumping it into the air, they're siphoning off a portion (whatever the algae can use before the air is released) of the CO2 into biomass. What do they do with the algae once they're done? Unless your answer is "Remove it from the ecosystem", there is a net carbon addition to
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Weaselmancer (533834)

            Well these are pilot projects with a very specific function - clean up factory emissions. Other setups will have different net carbon emissions, of course.

            Here's an interesting study. [unh.edu]

            In that, they study open ponds full of salt water to get their numbers. The CO2 comes from the air directly, same way a field of grass works. Different project, different goals - different carbon footprint.

            As for the pressed biomass left over, it makes fantastic fertilizer.

            Really, the entire algae/biodiesel thing is

      • by garyrich (30652)
        In the most promising tests it gets it from scrubbing the CO2 output of coal fired power plants.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you dense? Where does the electricity come from for electrolysis? How are you going to transport said hydrogen? Mass transit in America? Fat chance. Americans are too ingrained with their love of cars as if their cars were more precious than family members.
      • by TechyImmigrant (175943) * on Friday May 16, 2008 @01:26PM (#23437670) Journal

        Are you dense? Where does the electricity come from for electrolysis? How are you going to transport said hydrogen? Mass transit in America? Fat chance. Americans are too ingrained with their love of cars as if their cars were more precious than family members.
        Put an American in almost any European city and they will start using public transport, because it is easier than dealing with a car.

        American's don't 'love' their cars. The zoning, design and construction of their homes and cities make them reliant on cars.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fifedrum (611338)
        AC you have no idea what's going on. Put three vehicles in front of an American, one that gets 30 MPG of biofuel grown domestically from desert algae farms, one that runs on electricity alone (and at the same cost/mile) and one that runs on $6/gallon arab oil and see which one they choose. I'll bet it's close to 100% first two.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      You make a very good point! Mass transit was killed by a lack of interest by the masses (we all want our OWN car) and the greedy interest of various companies. Just look at LA! That city had the best train system at the time, and now its completely gone... Whether or not a hydrogen economy is the answer is best left to some SERIOUS research. Releasing that much water vapor could have significant weather effects. Creating a higher demand for water may have disastrous effects on society. I'd say the be
      • Trains used to be everywhere in the city because it was the only mode of transportation available. You have to remember that at the time diesel was becoming available and the internal combustion engine was being to overwhelm the steam engine. You should see some pictures of the railroad yards in downtown Philadelphia back when the PRR was at its peak. Everything was covered in black coal soot and people living in the cities just hated the steam engine but tolerated it as a necessary evil. Railroads, now viewed nostalgically today, were back then viewed with the same sort of hatred as Microsoft is by slashdot fans.

        Yes, its true, back in the day, the greedy corporation was in fact the steam train operators that ran the steam railroads. To some extent, people viewed the likes of GM as a form of liberation from a railroad monopoly, just as much as people cheered Microsoft when they supplanted IBM and cheer now tiny Linux service companies as they threaten to supplant Microsoft. Basically, what we are doing is evolution through corporate service. Once we've realized in our minds whatever good can be ascribed to a company, we get rid of it.

        To get back to point, its all too easy to see that, as soon as GM and Ford salespeople walked into cities talking up the virtues of buses over trains, they weren't exactly walking into a hostile environment. A bunch of cities even helped things along by passing ordinances effectively banning steam engines and then later on, even regular trains, for various health and safety reasons. The car, of all things, were not just a symbol of freedom from the evil railroad corporation, not just a symbol of private ownership, but they were actually -better for the environment too-!

        That just cracks me up. That and, the likes of Ivy League Univ of PA.
        • by spitzak (4019)
          The trains in the city were electric, not steam/coal powered.

          What cars did do is replace the horse, which is really a far worse polluter. Probably much more dangerous pollution as well. Though I guess they were carbon neutral.
          • The trains in the city were electric, not steam/coal powered

            No, it was a mix. You still needed to have steam trains to haul both freight and commuter traffic between city. Electric trains didn't have the power to make steep grades and so steamers would be still be used, for example, to K4s.

            I had a bunch of pictures in a longer post explaining this in more detail, but slashdot's new stupid interface got the best of me and now its gone.

            Anyway, the picture I'm trying to paint is this. Commuters circa the 1920s would probably take some sort of a electric train, be it subway or trolly to a central station. There, they would transfer to a steamer for travel between those cities that did not have electrified routes. So, to get somewhere, you would have walk a bit, take one form of transit, then get off, wait on a platform, then get another, and then from there go to another city, and repeat the same process. You had a big mix of ugly electric wires or dangerous third rails everywhere, and choking smoke from steam engines to do it. What's even worse is that, in that whole system, pressure from cars and worn infrastructure abused by the nationalizations of two wars basically meant that railroad service was pretty unreliable. Imagine how pissed you would be, for example, if your commuter train was late and you missed your intracity train.

            So, when the car came out, its advantages were obvious to anyone who travelled. You only had to get into and exit your vehicle once. You stayed warm and dry the whole trip. You didn't have to walk to and from any stations and the only cost you needed to have to make a trip was gasoline (which was dirt cheap). By the time you get to the 1950s, Eisenhower was launching the interstates, New Jersey and other states were building their turnpikes, and everyone who had any brain was buying a car.

            The great irony is that, as much as we say the coal fired locomotive was evil and polluting, to this day, a steam engine pulling 100 passengers built even with 1920s designs would emit about the same CO2 as not much more than 4 or 5 modern cars. A K4s (the most common steam passenger engine on the PRR circa the golden era) only had about a two thousand horespower, if that, and even today a modern locomotive diesel is about 4000 hp. Trains a pretty good deal, environmentally.

            If we had a "clean coal" steamer service, we'd be way ahead of the curve...
            • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday May 16, 2008 @03:17PM (#23439302) Journal
              >If we had a "clean coal" steamer service, we'd be way ahead of the curve...

              A hydrogen-powered locomotive would have a number of advantages over hydrogen-powered cars: it's pulling tens of thousands of tons already and won't mind the weight of thick-wall stainless steel tubing that doesn't leak or embrittle badly, and one big fuel depot can handle the cryogenic storage requirements, with a small number of people who have had training in doing cryo fuel transfers, rather than having to build thousands of hydrogen storage tanks at gas stations and make something that's sufficiently idiot-proof that the morons who think it's a good idea to drive down the highway while talking on the phone and trimming their nose hairs don't explode themselves.

              (that isn't the longest sentence I've ever written, but it's probably the longest I've written on slashdot...)

              BTW, I'm not saying that a hydrogen economy is a good idea. I am saying that if we were to try it, locomotives would be a better beneficiary than automobiles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WalksOnDirt (704461)
      Hydrogen might eventually work out fine for airline fuel (where liquid seems a feasible option), but so far I haven't seen any storage scheme that looks good for automobiles. Hydrogen barely gets you better range than a modern battery would, and yet it may require a whole new infrastructure to distribute it.
      • Hydrogen requires a fourfold volume increase to supply the same energy as its vastly lower density. Thats a four fold increase in something you have to store within the aircraft.
        • by MightyYar (622222)
          I don't think that the density would be a problem for aircraft. I suspect that most aircraft are limited by weight more than volume, and hydrogen gives you a lot more energy per pound.

          That said, you'd probably have to keep all of the hydrogen in the body of the aircraft, since the wings would absorb too much heat (and maybe ice over???). So now you are talking radical redesign of aircraft... maybe a lifting body?
          • by homer_ca (144738)
            Density is definitely a problem for aircraft because aerodynamic drag is proportional to frontal area. Wider bodies have more drag. Stretching the fuselage doesn't increase drag, but does increase weight. Also, forget about storing hydrogen in wing tanks because you can't insulate a thin tank like that for liquid H2.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Actually, density is more of a problem than you would think - most cargo aircraft bulk out before they reach their MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight), and the same for passenger aircraft (as baggage is relatively bulky but light compared to cargo).

            Cargo is also much more lucrative than passengers (check out Singapore Airlines operating late night passenger flights routinely with a dozen or so passengers on - they make the money running cargo in the aircraft belly).

            So you cannot simply add tanks to the carg
        • Thats a four fold increase in something you have to store within the aircraft.
          But it does weigh less, which is very useful in airplanes. Liquid hydrogen might not be the best alternative to oil based fuels for airlines, but I think it is a workable one. Current jet fuel is almost ideal for its purpose, so I think this is the last place we should be looking to change to alternatives. But, eventually, liquid hydrogen could be a replacement.
      • -Hydrogen also makes metal brittle.

        -cooling/insulation could not be perfect so 1.7% per day of the hydrogen would leak!

        http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/hydrogen.html [stanford.edu]
        • -cooling/insulation could not be perfect so 1.7% per day of the hydrogen would leak!
          Which wouldn't much matter to an airline, but that's one reason that liquid hydrogen looks terrible for cars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WinPimp2K (301497)
      I used to think like that but:

      A few major problems with your solution

      1> Salt water is only mostly water. Where are you going to dump all the waste (something like 25Kg of salt per 1000 liters)
      2> Hydrogen by itself is fairy hard to handle - it escapes most containers, and it makes metals brittle so pipelines (and engines - think about the pressures inside an engine cylinder and what happens when your engine block and cylinders become very britle)will have some severe problems.
      3> although #2 touches
    • by Cedric Tsui (890887) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:06PM (#23436052)
      Sorry man. You really don't understand the carbon cycle.

      You should know that the majority of organic material (like leaves or algae) and the carbon they contain does not get trapped away from the atmosphere. For the most part, dead organic material slowly decays releasing that carbon back into CO2.

      Using algae as a source of fuel can decrease the amount of carbon we are pulling out of deep sequestered sources. It would decrease global CO2 concentration as the source of carbon is part of a closed loop. We'll be pulling carbon out of the air when we grow more algae.

      On another note. Electrolysis is not easy. Right now, electrolysis terribly inefficient and needs platinum electrodes. There's a reason that hydrogen today is produced by cracking oil and not extracted from water.
    • 1. Why not use solar?

      2. How are you going to store gaseous H2 efficiently?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Layer 3 Ninja (862455)
      It seems the interest for the companies involved is not reducing their carbon footprint, but reducing their fuel cost. If they can make their own biodiesel, they wont be buying as much oil @ $100+ per barrel. Its a nice point you make, but I think this really comes down to crude oil being, and continuing to be, crazy-expensive.
    • by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:22PM (#23436344) Journal

      But if they're doing this to somehow trick themselves into believing that they are "helping the cause" then they need to pull their head out of their ass.
      We can't transition to your nuke/hydrogen world overnight. In the meantime, we need to do something to lower net CO2 output. Algae gets is carbon from the world around us. Turning algae into fuel only recycles it. Pumping crude out of the ground and burning it is a net increase in CO2. If we can find a way to burn less crude out of the ground, we are better off. Problem solved? No, not yet. But in the meantime, we're doing less harm.

      We NEED hydrogen power. Not fuel cells,
      Huh? Hydrogen fuel cells exist. Of course, right now you can't power a jetliner with hydrogen fuel cells, so for the purposes of this article that's pretty much moot anyway.

      Step 1: Build nuclear power plant
      Step 2: Split salt water into hydrogen and oxygen
      Step 3: Profit
      Step 4: Goto 1
      Expanding our nuclear infrastructure is important, but it's also important that we do it intelligently. CO2 may be bad, but 100,000 years worth of toxic, radioactive actinides is pretty nasty too. We need to invest in nuclear technologies that don't leave such unwelcome stuff behind. Newer reactor technologies are being explored that a) can burn through stuff that is now part of the waste problem, b) leave waste behind with a much shorter half-life, c) are less risky to operate than a lot of the older technology in use today.

      Driving a Prius isn't helping, buying a hybrid Chevy Suburban isn't helping.
      If hybrids can cut your CO2 output by anything (and yes, they do), that helps.

      Priuses and other hybrids are not addressing the root of the problem, which is our assumption of cheap transportation. THAT is what we need to cure.
      Gas prices are already doing that.

      The neo-hippies with their lattes and they horn rimmed glasses are not helping the cause, they're hurting it by buying into a false reality and encouraging others to do so.
      Giving in to sterotypes is another form of false reality.
    • In terms of the contribution to anthropogenic global warming, biofuels would actually be preferable to hydrogen. For air travel at least.

      Water vapor is a much more potent greenhouse gas when it's released high up in the stratosphere. So hydrogen powered aircraft at high altitudes could potentially increase the contribution of air travel to global warming by as much as an order of magnitude.

    • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:42PM (#23436668) Homepage Journal
      We NEED hydrogen power.


      You should do some homework regarding using H for power. First, being the lightest element, it does not like to be constrained and so seeps easily out of containers which are not properly sealed or, and this is key, thick enough.

      Yes, thick enough. Do a Google for how thick tanks have to be to contain hydrogen and you will see that you are adding substantial amounts of weight to any vehicle which uses hydrogen as a power source. Why thick? Because you need a lot of H to do the same amount of work that gas does and the only way to get a lot of H into any area is to compress it. To keep it under pressure you need a strong containment vessel (or wessel as Chekov would say).

      Second, you can't just have Joe Six Pack walk up to an H filling station, pull out the hose and start pumping. To use the compressed H (see above) it has to be liquified which means extremely cold temperatures. Usually, tranferring H to containers involves an automated process, not some guy with a cigarette hanging out his mouth, a cell phone in one hand and the other hand holding the valve open.

      In the end, using H as a power source, while a nice idea, is not feasible. You're missing at least one, if not more, steps in your example above. The liquification stage. That takes large amounts of energy to do so by using your example, you'd have to build the liquification plant next to the nuclear plant which is doing the electrolysis. That's what we need, a large source of explosive material next to a nuclear plant.

      This is not to say that we shouldn't use H where it can be easily applied but as a source to fuel cars, buses, planes, etc, it's simply a pipe dream.

      For your reading pleasure: eSkeptic [skeptic.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bryansix (761547)
      The number one reason to ditch oil is to stop funding terrorists. The number two reason is to provide economic stability. The number three reason is that SOME alternatives reduce pollution. And lastly to reduce carbon footprint.

      Look, global warming exists but tying the Greenhouse effect in with global warming is presumptuous. But if you do buy into all that AND think that CO2 is a major contributor to the percentage of Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere (hint: it's not) THEN you look at this algae thing
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      Our cities our built with the assumption that people can very cheaply get from one end of it to the other, but they can't anymore.

      You are correct, but do you consider why that's the case? Ever look at housing prices on a website like Zillow? Living near major centers of employment is extremely expensive. The only way people afford those homes is because they are rich, and/or gave up their vehicle. But what happens if they have to buy a lot of groceries or need to travel farther than their feet/public transportation will allow? Traditionally it's been cheaper to live far from work and own a car. High energy prices are not going

    • by eth1 (94901)
      Almost... Powering electrolysis seems like an ideal application for solar power. Especially if you could use space-based mirrors to focus it. If your facility is offshore, a "miss" will only boil a little water.
    • Feel free to keep chasing it though. I'll get some popcorn and a comfy seat.

       
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Okay buddy. I am not a big fan of ecco nuts but...
      Algae gets it's carbon from the air. It is carbon neutral. Hydrogen as a fuel is a mess. It is hard to store. Even liquid hydrogen has a lot less energy per cubic foot than jet fuel or gasoline. Tank size is an issue in just about all forms of transport. Also hydrogen really does some nasty stuff to many metals, It is really hard to keep from leaking, and as you pointed out it isn't an energy source.
      I don't think cheap transport is going to go away anytime s
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:50AM (#23435802)
    Sure they'll tell us jet fuel is made of algae, but then we'll find out that jet fuel "is people."

    It works best with a Charlton Heston voice.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Just as well, I can think of some humans who would make better fuel than people.
  • by Starteck81 (917280) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:50AM (#23435810)
    They just need to lash some CEOs to the wings of their jets. I don't have any exact figures but I strongly suspect that they put out the same amount of hot air as a jet engine.
  • by swb (14022) on Friday May 16, 2008 @11:51AM (#23435814)
    Air travel has become quite commonplace, I wonder if the rising fuel costs will make it economically non-viable to fly the number of routes and schedules that the airlines fly now if they end up having to raise the price to accommodate the ever-rising costs of fuel, turning air travel into one of those exclusive things it used to be 50 years ago.

    I also wonder if we'll see a renaissance in train travel in the US as air travel gets more expensive.
    • by couchslug (175151)
      "I also wonder if we'll see a renaissance in train travel in the US as air travel gets more expensive."

      Lack of rail coverage will knife that baby in the crib. Light rail can work in urban areas, but funding it is a battle. Hybrid bus travel could work, but the problem of public transit in the US is that no one wants to ride with the CHUDs it attracts.
    • I think it depends on a variety of factors: fuel prices, aviation system capacity, rail system capacity, etc. I just did a couple of ticketing comparisons (below) just to see the pros and cons. Clearly, air travel continues to win as I can fly pretty much whenever I want against the one or two rail offerings departing at late hours.

      Why is that though? Has the rail system (with regards to people moving) simply died due to neglect? Noise/speed requirements as trains can't travel so fast in urban areas? Are
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by swb (14022)
        Why is that though? Has the rail system (with regards to people moving) simply died due to neglect? Noise/speed requirements as trains can't travel so fast in urban areas? Are there too many stops along the way to make it worth it?

        The rail system has collapsed due to its own lack of economic viability, mismanagement and the time factor, which can't be discounted.

        When I was a kid, we'd take a 3 week vacation in the winter and at least two weeks over the summer, and my dad had a crap job as a semi-trailer sa
    • Slower planes (Score:4, Informative)

      by phorm (591458) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:32PM (#23438698) Journal
      I remember reading recently that airlines have actually slowed their flights down. Slowing down apparently means being a few minutes later, but a noticeable savings in fuel (or so the article said)
  • Yay biodiesel!
  • next step: soylent fuel
  • A WSJ blog... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:11PM (#23436158)

    A Wall Street Journal blog points out that even if this program's goals are met, we will be worse off by 2030 in terms of jet kerosene released into the atmosphere, assuming that the rapid growth in the aviation sector continues apace.
    IOW, idiots are still allowed to post on the internet.

    If 30% of the demand is met from biomass, that's *still* 30% less kerosene used and released into the atmosphere. What an idiot.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:14PM (#23436188)

    Someone must not be reading the news much lately. [google.com]

    Seems like every time you turn on the news you can't help but see some airline going broke.

    Personally I don't mind much. I'm hoping we see a resurgence of train travel. Easier, cheaper, and somehow a more romantic way to travel.

    Take an airplane when you're in a hurry. Take a train when you want to have a nice easy experience traveling. Looking out the windows at the cows, sleeping with the click-clack of the rails passing under your car - that kind of a thing. I know that's not the current situation today but I'd like the future to look like that.

    I'd happily tack on an extra day or two to my vacation if it meant I could enjoy dinner in a nice dining car. And not get frisked and scanned and have my orange juice confiscated by airport security when I go to board.

    • by bsDaemon (87307)
      Personally, I'm all about solar-powered zeppelins.
    • by analog_line (465182) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:50PM (#23436854)

      Personally I don't mind much. I'm hoping we see a resurgence of train travel. Easier, cheaper, and somehow a more romantic way to travel.


      Well, I don't know where you're getting your numbers. Perhaps for short distances and certain areas (ie, up and down the Eastern Seaboard), but for cross country travel, trains aren't price competitive at all. I travel to Seattle once or twice a year from Boston, and I can still get ~$300 round trip tickets. I also get there in a few hours. I've priced out train travel, and it comes out to almost $600, and 6 solid days of travel time for the round trip. Even more if I want a guaranteed electrical socket so I can plug anything in and do work/other stuff during the 3 day journey each way (you've got to buy a room for the long distance trains, the special seats with plugs only seem to be on the trains that run along the Eastern Seaboard, that's something like $300 per CONNECTION).

      Now, I don't imagine that the cost of air travel is going to stay that low, so in the near future train travel may very well become the only reasonable option left to me, but even with the nightmare that is air travel today, it's still a better option than the train.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by p0tat03 (985078)

        IMHO we'll see a resurgence of trains in the near future. Airline prices are shooting through the roof (it just cost me $700 round trip to fly my gf from the east coast to the west), and eventually trains will become competitive in the short to mid haul routes. Coast-to-coast will always be in airline territory, but I can totally see a revitalized railroad industry gutting the short-to-mid haul travel.

        Here's the deal. With airplanes I have to put up with annoying security, crappy service, high prices, noi

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      Easier, cheaper, and somehow a more romantic way to travel.

      I don't know about the cheaper part, every time I thought about taking a train someplace the airlines turned out to be way cheaper.

      I'd happily tack on an extra day or two to my vacation if it meant I could enjoy dinner in a nice dining car. And not get frisked and scanned and have my orange juice confiscated by airport security when I go to board.

      If rail travel makes a resurgence those luxuries will all go away. In order to make it economical the railroads will cram you in like sardines (or an airplane). If they are used heavily they will become a target for terrorists. They did it in Madrid, [wikipedia.org] and they will do it elsewhere.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Seems like every time you turn on the news you can't help but see some airline going broke.

      Meh, 577,000 returns when googling for airlines bankrupt [google.com] vs. 501,000 returns when googling for airlines expansion [google.com]. I'd say it's pretty much a wash. The news just reports the big-name airlines going broke more prominently. Southwest has quietly been building and expanding and last year became the largest airline [wikipedia.org] by passengers carried.

      I'd happily tack on an extra day or two to my vacation if it meant I could enjoy d

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:19PM (#23436294)
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  • by greymond (539980) on Friday May 16, 2008 @12:43PM (#23436678) Homepage Journal
    You know, even if it won't cut down the emissions of the jets I still think it's a step in the right direction. We just need a government leader that will actually make ecosmart research a priority.
  • I don't think he was even consulted.
  • Simple solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catmistake (814204) on Friday May 16, 2008 @01:06PM (#23437248) Journal
    Nationalize the Oil companies and raid their accounts. Make fuel free the way roads and bridges are "free," made a part of the Department of Interior, subsidized by new taxes. Use the windfall amounts of money (from siezed oil money) to bail out the airlines and R&D new fuel sources, & use whats left to pay down national debt.
  • Yet another use for nuclear power. Just make the reactor out of the same material that they make the black boxes out of, and voila, clean air travel. Once every five years you swap out the reactor, and bury the old one in a subduction zone.
  • recent research shows it is beneficial to grow algae on the grounds of a power station as it offers *absolutely free* heat and carbon dioxide, both of which when used for algaculture go from being nuisance waste products to valuable ways of accelerating the procedure.

    short review here [economist.com]
  • Grey Goo? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chord.wav (599850) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:04PM (#23438298) Journal
    ...program to develop jet fuel from algae and other biomass...

    Yes, but can they use grey goo?

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