Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Green Update: Scientists, Engineers, Algae and Jatropha

Are Chemists, Engineers on Green Jobs List? - Dot Earth Blog
For weeks, there’s been a growing chorus — from the incoming Obama team to community-welfare campaigners and environmental bloggers — pushing for building the economic revival around “green jobs.” So far the focus seems to be mainly on rebuilding physical infrastructure: insulating leaky low-income housing, building wind turbines, improving the clunky electrical grid and the like. These are, by almost any measure, logical starting points for an effort to cut America’s energy bill and carbon dioxide emissions while restoring prosperity.

But for such an initiative to be green at a scale sufficient for the atmosphere to notice, my sense is it will need to focus just as much on rebuilding the country’s intellectual infrastructure. I’m not quite sure I’ve heard any leader yet describe the sustained, aggressive “energy quest” that would be required to lead the world toward a future with non-polluting energy choices sufficient to empower more or less 9 billion people — and how that quest would have to extend from the living room to the boardroom, from the laboratory to the classroom, to be transformational.

As our ongoing Energy Challenge series and plenty of independent studies have made clear, the country and world are still not engaged seriously in advancing non-polluting energy technologies, from solar cells to the elusive notion of capturing carbon dioxide from power plants at a large scale and stashing it somewhere.
The Promise of Algae - Green Inc. Blog

Algae have gotten short shrift in the decade or so since the Clinton administration axed its research funding at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But could these tiny, ubiquitous plants, which come in a rainbow of colors and varieties, get us off of foreign oil some day?

“One of the big challenges — price, price, price,” said Michael Webber, a professor at the University of Texas. Right now, he said, algae could make fuel for around $10 a gallon, whereas the objective is to get the price down to $1.


Algae — whose predecessors helped make oil tens of millions of years ago — are already used in vitamins and other nutritional sup
plements. But the price is too high and the scale too small to meet the nation’s energy needs.
Taking Flight on Jatropha Fuel - Green Inc. Blog -

Fly to Paris on fuel made of algae and jatropha plants? That day may be coming.

Virgin Atlantic already ran a test from London to Amsterdam with fuel mixed with coconut oil and babassu oil earlier this year. Now Continental Airlines, in partnership with Boeing, is planning a test flight of a 737-800 aircraft partially fueled by biofuels. The test is scheduled for Jan. 7 in Houston.

The plane, which will not carry passengers, will be outfitted with a right engine running on a 50-50 blend of traditional jet fuel and a mixture of biofuels including algae and jatropha plants.

The jatropha is a family of plants, shrubs and trees native to Central America but found in many tropical and subtropical areas. It will be the first time an American airline has attempted such a test.

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