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Honeywell & Airbus To Turn Algae Into Jet Fuel

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the little-animalcules-powering-bug-jets dept.

Transportation 273

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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273 comments

A blogger says it's bad... (5, Insightful)

pete_norm (150498) | more than 5 years ago | (#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...

Abandon this project? (5, Funny)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Abandon this project? (0, Troll)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436026)

No, environmental terrorists are willing to nuke the planet before anyone else besides themselves get off of it.

Re:Abandon this project? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437396)

They're hoping Iran will do it for them. I don't think they even want to get off first.

"Hey, it's a really big bang man"

Re:Abandon this project? (1)

getto man d (619850) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436914)

We will find this jet kerosene and bring it to justice.

Re:Abandon this project? (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437016)

If we could only learn to convert greed, stupidity and bigotry to fuel, we'd never have to worry about energy again.

Heck, 23% of the country could supply the energy needs of the entire nation.

Re:Abandon this project? (1)

WhiplashII (542766) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437160)

If we could only learn to convert greed, stupidity and bigotry to fuel...
We have such a system - it's called a free market.

And yes, it works quite well.

There's approximately a zero percent chance... (2, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437228)

... 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? (3, Insightful)

Uncle Focker (1277658) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:So what? (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435950)

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? (3, Interesting)

wizbit (122290) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:So what? (3, Informative)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436604)

This graph [bts.gov] is a good one but only goes up to 2004. Going to the data source [bts.gov] and creating your own table shows that you're correct (RPM=revenue passenger mile=one paying passenger flying one mile). However, the graph does look bumpy lately, and I'm not sure how valuable extrapolation really is here.

Re:So what? (2, Informative)

Your Pal Dave (33229) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437140)

As for the Rapid Growth in the Aviation sector, precisely where is that growth?
Asia, China [google.com] and India specifically.

assuming that the *rapid growth* in the aviation (1)

woodchip (611770) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435630)

sector continues apace. It is stupid to assume any rapid growth in any sector will last that long. On the other hand, it is stupid to assume it will not.

Some assumption. (4, Interesting)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435704)

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.

Re:Some assumption. (4, Insightful)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Some assumption. (1)

OlivierB (709839) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436530)

At the risk of sounding like an idiot. How do these guys get around? Are they doing their meetings via video conference?

Re:Some assumption. (4, Informative)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436620)

If you can't afford a private jet there's Day Jet and Net Jet. They're like buying a time share in a private jet. Either way, you don't deal with the crowds and hassles of commercial airports.

Re:Some assumption. (2, Insightful)

garyrich (30652) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436080)

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 30 years.

Re:Some assumption. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23436788)

let me get this straight you think that the economy was brought to a halt because the flights were grounded...?

You don't think the us economy came to a complete halt because we lost a MAJOR entity in the global and national economy? not put on hold, not dissipated, literally there at 8 am and not at 10 am.

I think you need to reevaluate your theory

Re:Some assumption. (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436794)

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.

Re:Some assumption. (1)

PyroMosh (287149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437110)

Just nitpicking here:

You make great points. But there was far more than 48 hours of grounded flights contributing to the economic trouble in the wake of 9/11.

The nation panicked. The groundings certainly didn't help, but I'd hardly place the bulk of the blame on that.

Re:Some assumption. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23437218)

What's that old saying? Something like "what we lack in profitability can be made in volume!"

I don't know much about aviation either but it seems that they have a pretty popular product that they can't figure out how to sell in a viable way.

I've got a secret for them (4, Interesting)

blhack (921171) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (5, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435790)

where does algae get its carbon?

Re:I've got a secret for them (5, Funny)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435830)

where does algae get its carbon?

Ducks?

Re:I've got a secret for them (5, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:I've got a secret for them (2, Insightful)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435990)

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:I've got a secret for them (1)

strider200142 (1279440) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436034)

From the air!! You are trying to be clever and say that thus it will help our global warming problem, however it could have disastrous effects upon ecology. We might really mess up our planet with this new bio-fuel concept. Personally algae seems like a better source than corn so I'm glad this tech is coming about. How might we mess up our planet? The simplest answer is we might turn the planet into a dustbowl through too much agriculture. If everyone switched to biofuels food prices would rise (as they are now) but eventually way more land would have to be used for agriculture. The top-soil would get depleted very quickly, and the amount forest that we would lose (Amazon anyone?) because of farmers seeing a chance for higher profit would skyrocket. We can't blindly stumble along as a society anymore, we have to put some serious thought into our plans and not just be swayed by the popular catchphrase of the day!

Re:I've got a secret for them (-1, Troll)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436318)

Fuck the planet, it's going to die eventually as will we if we fail to leave it. I say exploit it as much as possible while we still can and find a way to get off it.

Re:I've got a secret for them (3, Insightful)

strider200142 (1279440) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436486)

Oooh, terrible idea. We don't have another planet currently, and living in artificial structures is just SLIGHTLY risky :P Not to mention that we would need fusion and anti-gravity to really make leaving the planet feasible in the long term. I suspect you are just trying to annoy me since you think I'm a tree hugging hippy. This is not the case, and you should probably mind your own quote from Mark Twain!

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436644)

So your strategy is to consume all resources until the planet is dead, then move to the next lush star ?

You're successfully compared the human race to a common parasite. Congratulations! You've confirmed what I already thought.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436550)

I know you're trying to think ahead, but your examples leave much to be desired.

Algae can be grown anywhere and it doesn't take soil to do so, so non-tillable land can be used if it's over land. If you can harvest natural algae blooms in the oceans, then that's a double-plus as algae blooms can happen so fast that when they die, they can kill off anything else in the area.

The food vs. fuel problem won't be much of a problem, because future ethanol production should be running from cellulose, which is not a food but actually a waste product from harvesting.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437006)

Algae definitely beats out crop plants especially if we could use salt water, but there are still problems logistically. You could grow it in open ponds, but then you'd have problems with contamination from other algae species with lower oil production. A bioreactor (enclosed clear tubes) is much more efficient, but try pricing out an acre of glass or plastic tubing.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436836)

1. Carbon for plants comes from the air, but clearing land releases more carbon than will be consumed by the biofuel crops that will be grown.


2. Green house gases in the upper atmosphere (above the clouds) is more of a problem than those same gases close to the earth.


Solution? Flying algae green houses!

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437194)

Why precisely would you need to clear land to grow algae? Ok, corn, switchgrass - yea you gotta clear land to grow those things - but algae doesn't quite work the same way.

Re:I've got a secret for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23436036)

Yeah, and what does algae produce as a byproduct of that process?

So as well as chopping down all the trees, let's harvest the algae too.

No possible problem with this plan right?

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Insightful)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436292)

Create algae farms. Harvest in sustainable %. Maintain good oxygen output while enabling harvestable fuel.

To repeat the strip-mining, unsustainable forestry attitudes of the 19th and 20th centuries would be foolish, damning and unconscionable.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436046)


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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436076)

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:I've got a secret for them (2, Insightful)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436582)

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 the ecosystem.

When algae take the carbon from the air, and it goes back into the air, there is a balance. Carbon out, carbon in at the same volume. If any stage is 'outside -> in' without an equal removal back out, you fail.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437328)

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 just organic solar. Same way the rest of nature works, pretty much.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

garyrich (30652) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436134)

In the most promising tests it gets it from scrubbing the CO2 output of coal fired power plants.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23435828)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Interesting)

strider200142 (1279440) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435934)

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 best bet is mass transit first and foremost. Such systems greatly improve the efficiency of moving large numbers of people around, and efficiency truly is the goal. Next society should consider how to diversify its energy consumption so that we aren't invested 100% in any given tech.

Cars were better for the environment (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436286)

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.

Re:Cars were better for the environment (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437074)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Interesting)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 5 years ago | (#23435998)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436038)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436690)

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?

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437120)

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:I've got a secret for them (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436742)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436288)

-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]

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436456)

-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:I've got a secret for them (3, Insightful)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436042)

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 on it, hydrogen will need an entirely new support infrastructure - I did not see that mentioned before you start profiting.
4> Along with that new infrastructure, you will have an entirely new level of security issues. I invite you to consider the explosive potential of a hydrogen tanker being used by "youths" as an improvised FAE.

But I am in agreement that we should be building nuclear power plants - I would try to find more ways to replace fossil fuels with electricity as well as finding more non-fossil alternatives.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

redxxx (1194349) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437170)

1> Salt water is only mostly water. Where are you going to dump all the waste (something like 25Kg of salt per 1000 liters)
I'd assume unless the was an economically viable alternative(a massive increase in demand for sea salt) it would just get dumped back into the ocean.

Isn't this what is done with desalinization plants? I haven't heard ecological horror stories about the ravages of increased local salinity, and there are some pretty large operations out there.

Re:I've got a secret for them (5, Insightful)

Cedric Tsui (890887) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Informative)

Layer 3 Ninja (862455) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436220)

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.

dude (0, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436342)

putting carbon in the air that you took out of the air is better than putting carbon in the air that was buried in the ground

indeed, it's not ideal. but the best course is to gradually do better, not assume we can immediately jump to utopian society

furthermore, hydrogen power is very much of a "i'm a hipster in horned rimmed glasses who doesn't understand thermodynamics" kind of thing

when you convert from one energy form to another, you waste energy. its impossible not to. such that converting to difficult to store, dangerous, and difficult to transport hydrogen, and converting that to motion, with all of the wasted heat involved, is not ideal thermodynamically

batteries are better. again, still not ideal, as heavy and low density (energy wise) as they are, but they are still better than hydrogen

its just kind of funny your post, because to me hydrogen is very much and always has been the poster child cause of airheaded hipsters who know nothing about chemistry and physics

Re:I've got a secret for them (3, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436344)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

Conspicuous Coward (938979) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436628)

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.

Re:I've got a secret for them (4, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436668)

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:I've got a secret for them (0)

mckinnsb (984522) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436870)

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.
First:

Driving a Prius is helping, by reducing the overall amount of gas consumed and gradually edging the energy concious mentality into the mind of the general consumer. You can't make gigantic leaps into the future overnight, as much as we would like to see it happen. Don't deride energy conscious consumer decisions just because they don't meet the future ideal completely.

Second:

There are some pretty legitimate reasons for not fueling an aircraft with Hydrogen fuel, and while they could be worked around, they are still hurdles to overcome. Hydrogen does combust into water, but there is a catch- it is extremely explosive. The Challenger has recently been fitted with Self-Destruct mechanisms because of its age, due to the fact that a space shuttle full of hydrogen fuel colliding with a civilian structure would cause a hell of a lot of damage. A plane full of hydrogen fuel colliding with a structure or the ground would cause a massive explosion, much larger than one created by conventional jet fuel. That is of course an extreme example, but just consider for a second the implications of shipping that much hydrogen fuel for daily use, handling it at the airport, etc. It is a lot more volatile than conventional jet fuel. Also, building a nuclear power plant next to a airport that generated hydrogen fuel may not be the best idea.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436922)

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 and weather it helps the carbon footprint.

The answer: It does if and only if it is a net producer of energy output. The reason is that even though burning it releases CO2 and other things into the environment; the act of growing the algae captures CO2 so the net carbon footprint of this technology is zero. ZERO zip zilch nada. Ya, some extra CO2 may be released to "prime the pump" so to speak but that's not much.

Re:I've got a secret for them (2, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437036)

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 to change that, it will only increase the demand for homes close to jobs. The only thing I see changing the status quo are companies like Zipcar, [wikipedia.org]who rent out vehicles cheaply, to people who only need them occasionally. Yes, better urban development would solve alot of our energy problems, but economics wont let that happen.

Re:I've got a secret for them (1)

eth1 (94901) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437150)

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.

Hydrogen is a red herring (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437346)

Feel free to keep chasing it though. I'll get some popcorn and a comfy seat.

 

Soylent Green? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Soylent Green? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23436464)

Just as well, I can think of some humans who would make better fuel than people.

Re:Soylent Green? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23436866)

Sheesh was Edward G all shriveled up in that, or what?

(Waiting for "Get your damn hands offfa me you ape!!")

Other alternative propulsion methods... (3, Funny)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Will air travel return to its 1950s elite status? (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Will air travel return to its 1950s elite statu (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436726)

"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.

Re:Will air travel return to its 1950s elite statu (1)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437374)

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 there too many stops along the way to make it worth it?

I think a rail hub system combined with a bus spoke system could make a very effective travel scheme for short range transportation. Things I don't know are the developments and improvements to the rail industry and their operations.

For reference:
I looked on Amtrak - $556 for ATL to LAX for 70+ hours vs Delta's $436 for under 5 hours.
Shorter trip - ATL to DC. $156 for 14 hours vs $144 for under 2.

For what it's worth, I'd prefer the aerospace industry to continue to boom such that I can have a job when I graduate. But such was the same plight for the blacksmith and his industry.

In 2013 Youl'll Learn To LUV President John McCain (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23435948)



Good Luck. John "McSame" McCain will announce in 2013 that the United Gulags of America will have established a
full-fledged democracy in Iraqistan by 2109 after the first 4 years of his "100 Years Slogan".

Cordially,
Ahmed Coleslawskew.

A WSJ blog... (2, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Rapid growth in the aviation sector? (4, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Rapid growth in the aviation sector? (1)

kernowyon (1257174) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436400)

Whilst I have no doubt you are correct, it seems British Airways are bucking the trend. Apparently they made a profit of £833 million in the last year - and that is despite rising fuel costs and the debacle that was the opening of Terminal 5 at heathrow (although that only opened a day or two before the end of the fiscal year). Obligatory BBC linky to the details - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7404085.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Yes, it is. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23436524)

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

Private jet sales are going through the roof. CEOs and other VIPs have their own jets or will have them.

Getting frisked, waiting in lines, and getting piddly pretzels is for us members of the great unwashed.

Re:Rapid growth in the aviation sector? (5, Insightful)

analog_line (465182) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Welded tracks have no sound (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23437244)

Modern rail road tracks are welded and feature no click-clack sounds.

But maybe the good old us has not invented this technology yet? I hear large parts of the US rail network is not even electrified. :)

Journalists and Bloggers Template! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23436294)

Want to be a Blogger or Journalist? It's Easy!

Simply use the template below to create incisive, award winning posts.
---

Despite advances in _______________, by the year ______________, experts believe that we will still be worse of in terms of ________________, requiring drastic measures to reduce ______________.

It doesn't matter what you put in, it's all true!

Re:Journalists and Bloggers Template! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436676)

Despite advances in ___posting technology on Slashdot_____, by the year __2010____________, experts believe that we will still be worse of in terms of ___trolls, shills, fanbois and stupid posts______, requiring drastic measures to reduce ____Anonymous Cowards and Karma Whores__________.

Re:Journalists and Bloggers Template! (1)

anexkahn (935249) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437192)

Despite advances in [Water Purification], by the year [2075], experts believe that we will still be worse of in terms of [fried chicken], requiring drastic measures to reduce [Cow Emissions].

Kind of magic (1)

Atdtstdn (825022) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436316)

From the article:

"they plan to produce fuel from vegetation and algae-based oils that do not compete with existing food production or land and water resources."

It's magic, then.

You know even if it won't (2, Insightful)

greymond (539980) | more than 5 years ago | (#23436678)

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.

Simple solution (3, Interesting)

catmistake (814204) | more than 5 years ago | (#23437248)

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.
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