January 2010


This is in light of my last post. As I said, many biofuel developers are busy behind the wheel trying to create a viable jet fuel and there are a few airlines already working hard on making it happen. Heck, it would not only reduce carbon footprints but it would do just as much good to the bottom line. Gas prices, especially high end fuels, is going to rise, rise, rise over the next decade and the way out of that expense may very well run through a vegetable or tree farm.

For instance, Air New Zealand has tested a passenger jet powered by a second-generation biofuel derived from plants that do not compete with food crops. This is a much needed variation, no matter what the corn or peanut industries would like us to believe, as food crops are going to become harder and harder to sustain and world food supplies are going to dwindle over the next century. Air New Zealand ran the flight to and from Auckland International Airport using a 50-50 mix of standard A1 jet fuel and oil from Jatropha trees in one of its four engines. Although this is not the ideal ending to the concept, the best solution would be to run on NO jet fuel at all, this is a good beginning. The flight included a series of tests to assess how the biofuel-powered engine operated compared to the ones running on kerosene at different speeds and at different stages of a normal flight.

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This was all the news back in October 2009. Members of the airline industry group “IATA” pledged to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent a year until 2020, and called on governments worldwide to provide incentives to speed biofuel development. There have been advances made in jet liner biofuels and I will be posting more on this in the near future. The idea of airliners running on biofuel is an exciting one, but is it viable?

The industry group represents all the major airlines, worldwide, and it is noteworthy that they also agreed to reduce carbon emissions by a full 50% of current levels by the year 2050. This all occurred in a meeting on climate change held in Montreal in 2009.

IATA director Giovanni Bisignani has been quoted as saying that the meeting had made it “absolutely clear that industry is committed to improving environmental performance”. He also was quoted as saying that cooperation between states and airlines would be key to lowering emissions. It is my opinion, at this time, that this remains to be seen.

Mr. Bisignani also said that “Governments have some homework to do, improving air traffic management and accelerating biofuel development by establishing the right fiscal and legal frameworks.” At the same meeting, he also called for “aviation access to global carbon markets to offset emissions until technology provides the ultimate solution.”

All of this is fine and dandy but in light of the sad results of last years Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, these goals are merely goals and do not look doable in the long run. Not that airline carbon reduction would be a huge factor anyways. Accordiing to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), airlines are only responsible for 2% of carbon dioxide emitted worldwide and about 3% of emissions currently linked to climate change. This is really nothing compared to the farming industry, agriculture and the mowing down of the rainforest for toilet paper.

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In October of 2009, Dow Chemical unveiled its line of Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles, revolutionary photovoltaic solar panels in the form of solar shingles. These shingles can be integrated into rooftops with standard asphalt shingle materials. The innovative product design reduces installation costs because the conventional roofing shingles and solar generating shingles are installed simultaneously by roofing contractors. This is the biggest forward leap that anyone has made in producing solar roofing materials that can be utilized easily. This will ultimately hold down labor and time related costs as well as the cost of materials.

These solar shingle systems are going to be available in limited quantities sometime this year and are projected to be more widely available as soon as 2011. This new products puts the power of solar electricity generation into the hands of homeowners at a reasonable cost and without a lot of specialized labor. This product is the result of groundbreaking technology from Dow Solar and integrates low-cost, thin-film CIGS photovoltaic cells into a proprietary roofing shingle design, making it useable by standard current roofing companies. This integrated shingle is, literally, a multi-functional solar energy generating roofing product.

The way this innovative product design reduces installation costs is through the integration of the standard shingles and the solar panels. This allows conventional roofing shingles and solar generating shingles to be installed simultaneously by roofing contractors. Dow Solar (DSS) expects an enthusiastic response from roofing contractors since no specialized skills or knowledge of solar array installations are required. As I already said, this is a huge step forward in making solar panels accessible as they have always required specialized knowledge, informed installation and intensive labor and time invested, which drove the cost up over the average homeowners budget.

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I know this is not new news. I know it was first presented to the public back in March of 2009 but I can’t help but comment on this. Did you know that six major baby bottle makers in the United States have agreed to stop using the toxic chemical Bisphenol-A, an obesegen and toxic chemical, in their baby bottles?

The six companies are: Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow. They have all agreed to voluntarily ban BPA from bottles that they manufacture. This is a huge victory for human health in this country and now you have a choice. Buy the junk others make, loaded with BPA, or limit your purchases to these thoughtful companies.

Consumer groups in New Jersey and Delaware wrote in October, 2008, to the companies urging them to stop using the controversial chemical, widespread in plastic, after studies linked BPA to a range of health problems in infants. Not to mention that science has linked this chemical to obesity; so much so that scientist call it an “obesegen”. Read my recent post on Harmony Green. In fact, over 130 studies over the past decade have linked even low levels of BPA to serious health problems, breast cancer, obesity and the early onset of puberty, among other disorders.

Vocal consumer watchdog groups have been calling, loudly, for a complete ban on BPA. But this is small comfort in my opinion when you realize how much of this is going on, and not just with baby bottles. We should be in fear for our lives. In addition to all the other horrors discovered about BPA alone, toxicologists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found last year that the chemical could interfere with the brain development of fetuses and newborns. Ever wonder why so many of our kids are fat, hyperactive and have to be medicated for brain disorders? Is it going to come down to how rich some company can get? Is our health and well being a price you’re willing to pay?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its European counterpart, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have said the chemical is safe in the amounts used in such products as baby bottles. For my opinion on this matter, read my previous post on how the EPA lies to us about the chemicals in the products we buy.

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This is such a cool idea that I just had to come at it, even though I’m a few months behind on the original announcement. In September, 2009, a new car aptly named the “Algaeus” completed it’s cross country tour successfully and refueled the idea that algae might bring natural solutions to our high tech problems after all. The algae fueled car traveled 3,750 miles across the country, spreading the word of new possibilities. After it completed it’s tour, it then joined the “Green Energy Bus”, the Veggie Van Organization and the FUEL team for a college tour to further spread the green word. The “Green Energy Bus” is a retrofit interactive classroom that shows students just how the new concept works.

The Algaeus is the brainchild of Sapphire Energy, the leader in algae-based renewable fuel, who joined with the team behind the award winning film FUEL, to complete the first cross-country car tour powered by a blend of algae-based gasoline in an unmodified engine. It took a total of 10 days after starting in San Fransisco and making it’s way to New York City, to which it arrived on September 18. The Algaeus presents a tantalizing peek into a very likely future which excites me. Sapphire Energy provides the fuel for the extraordinary car, containing a mixture of hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude and extracted through Sapphire’s proprietary process. However, there really is nothing extraordinary about the car in reality. It could be your car, the way things are hopefully going to turn out!

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