Print 61 comment(s) - last by herrdoktor330.. on Feb 28 at 9:49 PM

After the successful flight, Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson was seen juggling coconuts and spoke to reporters about the event, which he feels marks a "vital breakthrough"  (Source: Reuters)

The Virgin Boeing 747 took off from London's Heathrow airport and flew a test flight, fueled partly by Brazilian babassu nuts and coconut biofuel -- the first biofuel flight of a commercial jet  (Source: Virgin Atlantic)
Virgin airlines runs first biofuel flight; environmentalists less than thrilled

Virgin Atlantic just completed the first flight by a commercial aircraft powered partly by biofuel.  The flight was powered by a particularly outlandish biofuel -- a mixture of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts.  The mixture helped to power the Virgin Boeing 747 jumbo jet's flight between London's Heathrow airport and an airport in Amsterdam.  The airliner had no passengers, in event of failure.

Quirky Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson, claimed the flight was a "vital breakthrough" to the commercial airline industry.  He stated, "This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future."

Sir Branson stated that he thinks that future won't be in nut fuels like the one used by the flight, but rather in feedstocks such as algae.  He failed to elaborate what exactly Virgin's algae-powered plane plans were, though he may have been referring to current efforts to produce hydrogen with algae.

The flight had one of its four engines connected to the biofuel tank.  This engine relied on the biofuel for 20% of its power, or about 5% of the total flight power.  The other three engines were left powered on traditional fuel to ensure a safe flight if the biofuel powered-engine failed.  The company said it selected its nuts based on the fact that they were from mature plantations and were non-competitive with local food staples.  The nuts selected were most commonly used in cosmetics and household paper products.

While biofuels sound like a development that would be championed by environmentalists, numerous environmental organizations were less than nuts about the flight which they labeled a "publicity stunt."  Environmentalists point out that biofuels are currently mechanically and economically not viable, and warn of the possible negative impact on world food crops

One U.N. official, typically a supporter of environmental issues, called biofuels a "crime against humanity."  Many researchers have shared the opinion that biofuels, in their current state, do more harm than help.  Most of these groups acknowledge that emerging processes such as cellulosic ethanol production or microbial hydrogen production may yield acceptable solutions, but firmly believe that none of the on-market solutions are good ones.

While Virgin believes that many of its aircraft will be plant-powered within 10 years, skeptics point to biofuel's tendency to freeze at high altitudes, a possibly catastrophic problem.  Kenneth Richter, of Friends of the Earth blasted the flight as a "gimmick" which he says takes the focus away from providing "real solutions for climate change." 

Richter elaborates, suggesting a different approach, "If you look at the latest scientific research it clearly shows biofuels do very little to reduce emissions.  At the same time we are very concerned about the impact of the large-scale increase in biofuel production on the environment and food prices worldwide.  What we need to do is stop this mad expansion of aviation. At the moment it is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the UK, and we need to stop subsidizing the industry."

Greenpeace chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, believes less air travel is the answer and labeled Virgin's press release as "high-altitude greenwash." Dr. Parr states, "Instead of looking for a magic green bullet, Virgin should focus on the real solution to this problem and call for a halt to relentless airport expansion."

While Virgin plans to blaze ahead with its biofuels program amid criticism, Airbus is testing another alternative fuel:  a synthetic mix of gas-to-liquid.  On February 1, it flew a plane from Filton near Bristol to Toulouse in a three hour test-flight using the fuel mix.  The aircraft used was none other than the world's largest jumbo jet, the A380.  Unlike Virgin, Airbus has been less vocal about its alternative energy flight program.

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Less = More
By masher2 (blog) on 2/25/2008 1:48:47 PM , Rating: 5
> "Greenpeace chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, agrees that less air travel is the answer..."

When asked how people would still be able to attend far-off vacations and business trips, Dr. Parr replied, "That's why God made Birkenstocks".

RE: Less = More
By FITCamaro on 2/25/2008 2:02:52 PM , Rating: 5
Let's all start traveling by hot air balloon. We can get plenty of hot air from all the environmentalists out there.

RE: Less = More
By onwisconsin on 2/25/2008 8:11:14 PM , Rating: 5
Actually it could be powered by biofuel from all the crap that comes out of their mouths!

RE: Less = More
By Fnoob on 2/25/2008 9:26:09 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I believe Branson is powered by Dilaudid according to the pic.

RE: Less = More
By eye smite on 2/25/2008 11:53:02 PM , Rating: 3
We could always get gliders with a solar powered propeller on the back. Might take a while, but you'd get there.

RE: Less = More
By xphile on 2/26/2008 2:34:17 AM , Rating: 2
Actually according to his publicist it was all supposed to be "If you take this - you'll have big, powerful nuts too!" Hence the "vital breakthrough" ... and it was actually all just a subtle inferred reference to "All pilots have big balls" and his new advertising campaign for Virgin branded Viagra. Evidently, though obscure in meaning it will all come out in the wash eventually.

RE: Less = More
By herrdoktor330 on 2/28/2008 9:49:14 PM , Rating: 2

But what I really don't understand is this slant against biofuel. I really don't follow the concern that creating biofuels will cause a deficit of world food supplies. I can't speak for the rest of the world. But in the US, farmers are paid to not grow anything at all. In the production of mass amounts of soy and corn oils, it could create a new agricultural revolution. And I'm sure with some modern ingenuity, we could make even more soy and corn production all year round.

Another idea I find interesting is, based on a UN document, Africa could explode with viable agricultural production if it was managed properly. If the goverments in action there could work together to provide irrigation, tractors, and more modern farming techniques to farms in rural Africa they could be a very very large producer of these fuels. If Africa can have the "Green Revolution" that the UN wrote about, they could feed the continent and line their pockets with all the fuel and food they could potentially make.

But from what I understand about biodiesel, it burns cleaner than petrol diesel and the only real inefficiency in production is how much energy it takes to produce ethanol in place of methanol, a petrol product which is used in the chemical creation of vegetable oil to bio-d. Other than that, it can power cars, trains, busses, and everything esle for years to come. While the cold can prove a challenge by making conventional biodiesel gel at freezing temperatures, additives (likely petrol based) can be used to prevent that. But there are also wiz-bang methods of heating the fuel systems to prevent complete freezing from happening also. For all it's hairs and warts, biodiesel is a fair option for the rest of the non-freezing world that can still get access to methanol. I'm sure that over time, the other negatives to using it as a fuel can be worked out over time.

But I guess what I'm getting at in all of this is that the enviromentalists are full of malarky on this one.

RE: Less = More
By Oregonian2 on 2/25/2008 2:28:52 PM , Rating: 3
Is the production of Birkenstocks environmentally safe? It would take a LOT of them for a London to NYC trip I think. Or even for just a London to Frankfurt one. There also would be a LOT of effort involved which vastly increases CO2 emissions by the traveler. Is this environmentally safe? Does one have to buy carbon-credits if one is going to walk one of these trips? If one orders Birkenstocks and they come by FedEx (air) does that get counted as well?

RE: Less = More
By kattanna on 2/25/2008 2:58:42 PM , Rating: 5
can we not add the names of those 2 guys onto the US no fly list?

RE: Less = More
By DeepBlue1975 on 2/25/2008 3:20:43 PM , Rating: 5
"Greenpeace" and "scientist" are two words that should NEVER EVER be used in the same sentence.

It's a blatant insult to real scientists.

RE: Less = More
By djkrypplephite on 2/25/2008 3:34:36 PM , Rating: 2
This is true. Greenpeace is a socialist organization, not an environmental one.

RE: Less = More
By DeepBlue1975 on 2/25/2008 7:11:36 PM , Rating: 3
Not even that. I actually like many socialist policies and practices, but 99% of what Greedpiss propose and say is totally ridiculous and hypocrite. Now they say they'd like fewer flights to avoid pollution...
But do they travel across the oceans in engineless boats?

I guess they don't...

They don't understand the basic principle of looking forward by trying to find solutions to new problems by CREATING solutions, not by trying to stop things that are already widely accepted AND welcome!

The only thing they want is to have people's credit cards to finance their own flights and foolish propaganda, which will get them somewhere in the world where they'll say "we could use fewer flights".

RE: Less = More
By andyjary on 2/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Less = More
By masher2 (blog) on 2/25/2008 8:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
> "1/6th of that money could have solved all your social security problems "

Your figures are far, far afield. The cost of five years of the Iraq War is nearly $500B. Social Security may be as much as $37 trillion in deficit. That's 74X as much by the way, in case you're not good with large numbers.

And just to clarify, that $37T figure isn't even close to total spending on SS -- it's just the anticipated shortfall:

Your "3 trillion figure" is just plain laughable. I think you've gotten a bit confused, possibly in relation to a CBO estimate from last year that, counting the war in Iraq *and* Afghanistan, estimated that total costs for both engagements could range up to $2.4...if we remained on station till additional 9+ years.

RE: Less = More
By andyjary on 2/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Less = More
By masher2 (blog) on 2/26/2008 12:26:37 AM , Rating: 3
> "Fine, but I think I'd believe a Noble Prize winner "

Until you realize that the prize-winner was a high-ranking member of the Clinton Administration, and a huge contributor to Democratic political campaigns. Hardly surprising what he'll write about George Bush, now is it?

His Nobel was for work in asymmetric markets, not exactly a field relevant to the discussion at hand. I'll take the GAO's estimate over his well-timed attempt to influence the 2008 election.

In any case, you've ignored the elephant in the room. Even with Stiglitz' bloated figures, the full cost of the war (much less the 1/6 figure you stated) isn't even a drop in the bucket to total Social Security Spending. Your belief that war spending has in some way affected our options regarding Social Security is flatly incorrect.

RE: Less = More
By MadMaster on 2/26/2008 12:59:15 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, but social security money stays in our economy (for the most part). War money is almost completely a economic loss.

It is difficult to predict the true economic loss, but somewhere between .5 trillion to 3 trillion is a good estimate.

RE: Less = More
By masher2 (blog) on 2/26/2008 1:51:45 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know where you get this stuff. Money paid to a US soldier stays in the economy just as much as money paid to a social security recipient. And money given to US firms for new weapons systems drives R&D. Historically, military expenditures have been a far larger economic driver than social security.

In fact, the only dollars which aren't acting to boost the economy are those given directly to Iraq...and most of those are earmarked for construction projects awarded to US firms, so your point is doubly moot.

RE: Less = More
By MadMaster on 2/26/2008 2:11:25 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, you're paying a soldier money to go over there and fight instead of stay here and build a house, drill for oil, fix cars, etc.

The money spent to make one M1 tank could be spent to make 200 20k vehicles. Assuming the war costs an extra 100 billion per year, that's 333 dollars per person in extra taxes.

Granted, paying old people to do nothing, that is also a economic loss... you ever pay anybody to do nothing, it is a economic loss. War is akin to doing nothing.

RE: Less = More
By masher2 (blog) on 2/26/2008 3:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
> "you're paying a soldier money to go over there and fight instead of stay here and build a house, drill for oil, fix cars, etc"

Which is equivalent to paying a welfare recipient to sit on the couch and do nothing. So what's the difference?

> "War is akin to doing nothing. "

Pretty much, yes. But as I said earlier, a large portion of war funding is funnelled into R&D efforts...something that doesn't happen with social spending (barring things like education, of course, which we're not discussing here). That boosts science and technology, and eventually pays dividends.

So while war and social spending are both net losses for a nation, war is less of one. And that flatly contradicts your earlier point.

RE: Less = More
By Hawkido on 2/28/2008 1:11:25 PM , Rating: 2
Wow! You are a bum...

Have you ever served in the military?

I didn't think so, your parents wouldn't let you, because they were afraid you would grow some balls. (Yes both boys and girls grow balls in the military, the girls' balls are just invisible. And it makes them far tougher than any civilian, male or female)

The money paid to a soldier is direct deposited into his/her Bank account here in the US. The soldier's spouse uses that money to buy clothes and put a roof over their kids heads.

I suggest you do some research before you start blasting our Boys and Girls over there.

Most of them spend very little money while they are over there. Much less is spent per soldier over there in a 12 month deployment than is spent per person on a one week trip to Mexico.

So if you are wanting to stim the outflow of US dollars to foriegn countries you would be better served by cutting off all recreational travel to foriegn countries for one month during the summer VS anything with our troops.

And social security adds nothing to Society, as that money paid out was taken from this generation of workers minus the overhead of IRS and government handling at all levels which is in the Billions a year. Someone with the correct figure, add it please.

War is akin to doing nothing.

Funny, getting defeated in akin to doing nothing. War is akin to fighting back so you don't get pummeled.

RE: Less = More
By jimbojimbo on 2/28/2008 3:11:25 PM , Rating: 2
But when we got paid all the money wound up in stateside banks that we couldn't even touch until we got back. Then we spent a good portion by fueling the economy with new car puchases and such.

You obviously don't know so let me clear it up. Even if we didn't go over there troops still get paid and do regular exercises which also cost up money all year round. If we're not at war we're training for war. And don't give me any of this death toll crap because more troops die of motorcycle/automobile accidents than from combat. I know because we got the spiel every holiday.

RE: Less = More
By SoCalBoomer on 2/26/2008 12:27:49 PM , Rating: 3
Moral of the story here: There is a world outside of America, really there is!

Funny how you seem to ignore that this article centers around a UK airline company. . .

RE: Less = More
By onwisconsin on 2/25/2008 8:12:50 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say more of a lobbyist organization (eg AARP, NRA, etc...) ;)

By Richlet on 2/25/2008 3:30:34 PM , Rating: 4
Sheesh, I didn't realise that so many people who read dailytech were such douchebag haters of people who care about the environment. I would have thought they'd be *into* new r&d of cleaner fuel solutions, not a bunch of hummer-driving dopes :P

RE: wow..
By rcc on 2/25/2008 4:14:55 PM , Rating: 4
haters of people who care about the environment

hmmmm, who were we discussing that actually cares about the environment?

RE: wow..
By eye smite on 2/25/2008 11:56:59 PM , Rating: 5
I think it's just a case of people being jaded by the global warming, mini ice age, natural changes in environment maelstrom of disinformation we all keep getting from the so called experts that can't seem to agree on anything. I could be wrong though.

RE: wow..
By MadMaster on 2/26/2008 12:58:40 AM , Rating: 1
haha look at some of the stuff these guys believe!

High gasoline prices are caused by refinery capacity!

Clearly, that isn't the case, (and wasn't back in April)...

Or hey, lets check out this article...

Obviously isn't the case.


"If I believe in anything non-conservative, I have to be a push over, give up my hummer, etc... That means liberals/environmentalists are the devil!"

It's Okay though, ultra-conservatives make me $$!

RE: wow..
By masher2 (blog) on 2/26/2008 1:36:34 AM , Rating: 4
> "Clearly, that isn't the case, (and wasn't back in April)..."

I'll just spend the time to just deconstruct one of your fallacies. Look at your posted link from the EIA. Examine refining percentage as a cost of gas for Jan 07 -- 10.6%. Now look at the percentage just 3 months later. It has risen to 28.1%, a rise of nearly three-fold in just three months. Do you actually believe refining costs tripled in 3 months time? The price of gas rose by 90 cents/gal in that interval, a period in which the cost of crude oil, measured as a percentage of gas prices, actually fell.


As someone who once actively traded commodity futures, let me explain how gas prices work. They're not set by oil companies, regardless of what some believe. They're set by the futures market, in a collective decision made by tens of thousands of traders. How do they work? Tactics vary, but the base strategy is simple -- look at the EIA's weekly figures on gasoline stockpiles, see if the value is rising or declining, and try to outguess the trend. A decling value means we're buying more gas than we make. A long-term decline requires price to rise enough to force demand down. Else the pumps will run dry and we all walk to work.

The effect of refining capacity on gas prices can be seen most clearly in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The temporary loss of several key refineries caused gas prices to skyrocket to $6/gallon in places. Look at refining costs Sep-Nov 05, which dropped by more than 400% in just two months time. That occurred as the refininers came back online.

You also see a similar effect every summer, as higher demand always causes gas prices to rise, whatever oil prices may do.

Is refining the only factor affecting gas prices? No, of course not. Historically, oil prices are a larger factor. The refining bottleneck only rears its ugly head when we approach 100% capacity points in the system. That leaves little room for unexpected shutdowns or problems, makes traders jumpy, and causes prices to rise.

RE: wow..
By MadMaster on 2/26/2008 2:20:03 AM , Rating: 2
This actually depends more on how you look at it.

If you call the price spike a $0.30 increase, then yeah it could increase it that much.

However, the price of crude is the main driving force for the price we pay at the pump. It usually accounts for more than 50%. The price for refining usually goes between $0.30-$0.90. But today, Refining cost is only at $0.30. We still have $3.00 a gallon gas.

The bottom line is building more refineries won't drop the price to a dollar a gallon gas, or even a $1.50.

RE: wow..
By masher2 (blog) on 2/26/2008 10:36:47 AM , Rating: 2
> "If you call the price spike a $0.30 increase, then yeah it could increase it that much"

Again, you ignore that refining capacity during Katrina spiked gas prices by ten times that much. You also ignore the fact that -- within a month of said article being written -- refining/marketing costs rose to 42%, adding over $1.30 to the cost of each and every gallon. Meaning that Jennings predictions were spot-on.

Since then, gasoline demand has actually fallen, thanks to higher prices. That, coupled with increased gas (NOT oil) imports from overseas, means we're no longer outstripping our refining capacity, and thus that bottleneck is (again, temporarily) not largely affecting prices.

But it will most certainly return at some point, especially if the nation continues its 32-year-long pattern of refusing to build any new refineries. Oil can be shipped cheap, but shipping refined gas from overseas is expensive and prone to delays and other problems. It's not a long-term solution.

RE: wow..
By MadMaster on 2/26/2008 1:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
If shipping the gasoline was twice the price as shipping crude, it would still only account for about $0.04 out of a gallon.

How about lets do something else, reduce demand for gasoline! Won't that push oil prices down?

Keep in mind that a barrel is 42 US gallons. Take the current price of 100 dollars per barrel / 42 = $2.38 per gallon of crude. The astute person might know that a barrel of crude usually puts out about 44 gallons of product (not all of it gasoline...depends on the type of crude and the process used). That means 100/44 = $2.27 per gallon of product. $2.27 / $3.00 (gallon of gas) = 75%. Granted there is variability between different types of crude. When the price of crude is $2.38 per gallon, I don't see how the price of gasoline can drop below that.

Your right when you say thousands of traders determine the price of crude. These thousands of traders want to secure their supply of crude and are willing to pay $90 per barrel to secure it. The reason is there is a tight supply of crude. We are not awash in crude anymore.

But your right, we will never run out, it will just cost $200 per barrel. That is if demand doesn't fall... (we need to use alternatives)

New fuel source
By FITCamaro on 2/25/2008 2:06:05 PM , Rating: 5
Can someone please perfect envirofuel? Fuel made from real environmentalists. Good for the environment and for society.

RE: New fuel source
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 2/25/2008 2:57:41 PM , Rating: 2
Soylent Green is people?

RE: New fuel source
By MrBlastman on 2/26/2008 9:39:01 AM , Rating: 2
Population control man ;)

RE: New fuel source
By DeepBlue1975 on 2/27/2008 5:01:35 AM , Rating: 1
It should be called "GreenPee"

By clovell on 2/25/2008 1:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
So this Greenpeace guy is essentially telling Virgin to neglect its obligations to its shareholders, forget about market demand, and help stunt the growth of the entire industry it does business in.

Forget about finding alternatives - just do us a favor and go out of business. Real slick.

RE: Huh?
By Oregonian2 on 2/25/2008 2:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
That pretty much summarizes Greenpeace's stance on all companies other than themselves.

RE: Huh?
By othercents on 2/25/2008 2:42:22 PM , Rating: 2
Its the same idea about cars. All alternatives (including plug in cars) are not as good as not driving at all. Granted they might not be as good, but hell they need to come up with some sort of compromise instead of insulting the intelligence of the rest of the world.


RE: Huh?
By dever on 2/25/2008 3:21:14 PM , Rating: 2
Who and what are "they?"

Caption correction.
By Mitch101 on 2/25/2008 2:13:00 PM , Rating: 3
Under the picture of Branson it reads.
After the successful flight, Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson was seen juggling coconuts and spoke to reporters about the event, which he feels marks a "vital breakthrough"

What it should say:
I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

RE: Caption correction.
By napalmjack on 2/25/2008 4:30:49 PM , Rating: 2
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines."

By Machinegear on 2/25/2008 2:49:51 PM , Rating: 2
Progress rarely develops along a straight line. When a large company decides to invest in future technologies it should be encouraged. It would be nice if the environmental idealists would temper their reactions with some reality.

Alliteration ftw
By Rogie on 2/25/2008 2:58:58 PM , Rating: 2
powered partly powered by biofuel


By marsbound2024 on 2/26/2008 12:09:09 AM , Rating: 2
I myself am concerned with humanity's impact on the environment, but I maintain a steady measure of objectivity on a variety of topics, including global warming. Everything is so hyped up and yet not all of the facts are in. Sure, I agree we are causing the Earth to warm artificially, but I do believe there was an article here on DailyTech talking about a solar minimum in 2050 or thereabouts. This may or may not be a breath of fresh air considering our possible direction with carbon emissions.
But anyways I am on a tangent from what I wanted to talk about.

I am always so frustrated at how environmentalists can NEVER be pleased. Give me a break guys. The tree you're hugging is either too thick, too thin, too barky, too bare, too much lichen, not enough lichen, a woodpecker has been here and the sap is pouring out on me ewwwww, someone dared to etch their initials in this tree and thus it is doomed, everyone support biofuels, what the hell, you're supporting biofuels, what an idiot...

Time to go make a voodoo doll for the universal "environmental scientist."

Algae is, indeed, the future.
By CryptoQuick on 2/26/2008 10:38:36 AM , Rating: 2
I currently work at an organization that is researching biofuels from algae. Hydrogen from algae is one option, however, producing biodiesel or ethanol from algae are entirely different propositions than hydrogen production.

Branson is correct in thinking algal biofuels are a good way to limit the impact of fuel production on a food supply (as evidenced by his choice of nuts and non-food staples), since raceways or photobioreactors can be built in areas that would not normally support food production, such as places with only brackish water or deserts. Technically, if you designed the system correctly, algae only use as much water as you take out of the system.

Many sources place the figure of biofuels production at around 5,000 to 10,000 gallons per acre per year. This may seem like a lot, but to put it more realistically, it's only 1-3 gallons per square meter per year. This may not seem like a lot of return from that land, however, to put these figures into perspective, consider that soybeans and corn produce about 10-100 times less fuel per acre/year, and with other fuel costs associated with agriculture, it may be that you will receive an overall net loss in your biofuels investment. One reason that algae are so efficient is that they spend less time building little plant parts, such as leaves and stems, and instead devote that to making more of themselves-- biomass.

Algae are very efficient at producing biomass that could be used for fuel, but may not be exactly what you want unless you use nutrient deprivation techniques to increase the amount of lipids or sugars in your feedstock. This feedstock is then converted to biofuels through either fermentation or transesterifcation.

Many companies are investing in biofuels programs, and the US even had its own, known as the Aquatic Species Program. One reason we do not have algal biofuels today is that phototrophs are notoriously difficult to mass-produce in a controlled environment, in part due to contamination by heterotrophs (bacteria take only 20 minutes to double, vs. an entire day for an algal culture, and thus, out-compete the algae for resources).

Biofuels production from algae is an extremely complex topic, and though there are many enthusiasts who believe that they can just harvest pond-scum and turn it into biodiesel, there are many other issues at play.

By Symmetriad on 2/26/2008 11:56:39 AM , Rating: 2
Believe it or not, the entire environmentalist perspective can't be categorized as "tree-hugging hippie retards." Some of us just believe that current fuel practices are not feasible in the long run, in both economic and environmental terms. Greenpeace is ignorant of any real social or economic concerns, and just tries to shout down people who disagree with them instead of proposing any real solutions. Most reasonable people, environmentalist or not, consider Greenpeace a complete joke. I, and others like myself, don't think that the world is going to become the next Venus by 2030 or anything, I just believe that it's in our best interest to work out industrial, agricultural and energy practices that are economically beneficial and sustainable in both the short- and long-term. Right now it's being made into an all-or-nothing argument, which (as we can clearly see here in most DT threads) prevents intelligent discourse far too often.

Current biofuel solutions are causing just as many problems as they solve, taking up land that could be used for food crops and causing giant price spikes and supply drops in crops that are getting pushed out of the way in favor of more immediatley lucrative biofuel farming. Wonder why your beer suddenly costs more this year? You can thank the hop shortage and biofuel farming for a big chunk of that. Oh, and of course the higher emissions footprint that biofuel farming has. Until we find methods of producing biofuel that are more economically and environmentally viable, it'd be a better idea to stick with oil.

Tree huggers will never be happy
By PAPutzback on 2/25/08, Rating: -1
By mles1551 on 2/25/2008 2:01:54 PM , Rating: 4
It better than the money going into terrorist pockets.

Greenpeace are the terrorists. I'm all for environmental responsibility, but these guys are a step away from rigging old growth forests with IEDs.

RE: Tree huggers will never be happy
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/25/2008 2:02:33 PM , Rating: 4
I'll leave your first sentence alone.

But as to your second remark, I think the issue is that this is a financially unfeasible fuel structure. I don't know the exact price in terms of equivalent energy content per $ of nut fuel vs. gas, but I assure you the cost of nut fuel will be much higher. This is a niche resource, and would need a large noexistant processing infrastructure to even harvest what little capacity there is.

Aside from the economic unfeasibility, your remark about poor farmers is equally silly. If somehow this technology became profitable, do you honestly think "poor farmers" would ever see a cent of the profits?? Despite the minor trend to fair trade (read poor farmer) agriculture, most plantations are owned by wealthy businessmen in these nations, who profit on the backs of their poor laborers. This tech does nothing to improve social equity.

As far as your final statement, what the heck?? This article had nothing to do with terrorism. Last I checked not much money from coconut sales was being funneled to terrorism. I could be wrong -- I haven't researched the subject extensively, but I'd say that's a safe bet.

IMO biofuels in their current state are just not viable. Maybe if GM realizes celluosic ethanol or other breakthroughs are made, maybe then they might be in 3-10 years. But nut fuel, and current ethanol production are simply not practical. Focus on new methods and better solutions, I say.

RE: Tree huggers will never be happy
By AgentPromo on 2/25/2008 2:42:43 PM , Rating: 2
All good points but,

If we don't start somewhere with alternative fuels, we will never get anywhere with it in the long run. Eventually we will need to develop alternative fuels, and pricing pressure with oil and such right now is driving this.

Is ethanol the right answer, is switch grass, or even coconuts as in the article? They are all part of an effort to figure out how to make sure we have enough energy going into the future. Pricing pressures are forcing a return to science which in the long run is probably a good thing. Maybe one of these new techs WILL become the thing that allows us to better develop our own energy supplies.

And with anything else, the "right" answer is probably somewhere between Greenpeace's ideal and abolishing the EPA...

RE: Tree huggers will never be happy
By dever on 2/25/2008 3:18:22 PM , Rating: 4
I'm agreeing with the environmentalists (and even Jason Mick) on this one. Current biofuel solutions are a sham and a tax on the poor.

Unfortunately, the pricing pressures are not from decreased supply or even the increase in demand. They are primarily from government interfering with consumer choice.

Like almost all alternative fuels today, biofuels are propped up by corporate welfare. The politicians are taking your money that you would have used to better your family and lining the pockets of their friends who are timing their investments in alternative fuels surprisingly well.

Freeing consumers to choose will produce alternative fuels at precisely the right time and in exactly the needed quantities.

By Ringold on 2/25/2008 9:10:42 PM , Rating: 2
Despite the minor trend to fair trade (read poor farmer) agriculture, most plantations are owned by wealthy businessmen in these nations, who profit on the backs of their poor laborers.

Land ownership is an issue in development economics sure enough; America, for example, was lucky that it had a good initial land distribution among its people early on. That doesn't preclude growth, though; if it did, we'd have no growth now. The "poor" in America havent owned the means of production for about a century and a half; it's all belonged to the "rich", and yet in America and even Mexico, which has long had from its very start the land distribution setup you describe sees decent growth. Wage growth averages around 13% in China -- and not because of labor unions. I don't see the poor owning much of anything over there.

Regardless, I don't know what the solution would be to your problem. Zimbabwe confiscated commercial farmland from the evil, rich white owners and turned it over to those living and working on the farm. Productivity immediately collapsed from a once profitable industry to barely subsistence level, and the white businessmen and farmers fled the country, taking all their experience, money and power with them. Not to mention, property rights is a fundamental concept that has to be protected to encourage growth, especially in these places where investment is risky enough as it is.

Not that everything is perfect, but it's not all bad either.

article had nothing to do with terrorism.

Could've *possibly* been refering to various cash crops around the developing world that are used to make illicit drugs. Not sure, though. I guess that holds in Afghanistan, but I haven't counted drug cartels as terrorists myself..

By PAPutzback on 2/26/2008 9:08:26 AM , Rating: 2
I guess I should have clarified that money from us buying oil from the middle east gets into terrorist hands not the money from nuts. Not to dismiss the fact though that any money we do spend on products overseas does end up being used by terrorists at some point.

Bio fuels might not be viable now but you have to do large scale research at some point in order to work out the kinks. How long have we tinkered with Solar Energy before it started making any real gains, 20, 30, 50 years?

I know ethanol isn't doing any good. It has low performance, expensive to make and it is make all the other products based on the raw ingredients go up.

You might save 100 bucks a year on gas and just pay those gains back in wheat and corn products.

By eye smite on 2/25/2008 2:22:49 PM , Rating: 3
Lets face it, none of these NUTS are happy about anything unless they're in control of the topic and the money gained. One minute it's global warming, the next it's a mini ice age like was seen 400 yrs ago due to a decrease in solar flare activity. Does anyone honestly think these so called experts really know what they're talking about. I know I don't.

RE: Tree huggers will never be happy
By ikkeman on 2/25/2008 2:40:05 PM , Rating: 3
in fact - biofeuls have the potential to kill many more poeple than oil ever did. Right now, The profitable item - oil - is not also a vital foodstuff. Warlords and local dictaters (feudal monarchs and texan cowboys, take your pick) have little use and less interest in the crops of the poor poeple they opress. What happens when they can get more money for those very foodstufs. Do you think anyone in afrika will still have something to eat.
BtW, you can make biofeul out of nearly evere crop - just with differing efficiencies.

already, the price of beer is rizing because of an increased demand for hops (i think, may also be barley) for biofuels. The horror!

RE: Tree huggers will never be happy
By masher2 (blog) on 2/25/2008 3:38:18 PM , Rating: 3
> "already, the price of beer is rizing because of an increased demand for hops...for biofuels."

I think I smell the plot of a Bob and Doug McKenzie movie in there.

By CannedWeasel on 2/25/2008 9:33:27 PM , Rating: 2
"If I didn't have puke breath right now I'd kiss you."

By jbartabas on 2/25/2008 5:51:33 PM , Rating: 2
already, the price of beer is rizing because of an increased demand for hops (i think, may also be barley) for biofuels. The horror!

There's so much a man can take, even for the environment! Last time I bought my favorite IPA, I realized that we'll have to choose between the climate, or the beer ... as far as I am concerned, the planet is doomed ... :-D

RE: Tree huggers will never be happy
By eye smite on 2/26/2008 12:07:20 AM , Rating: 4
Why do you say biofuels have the potential to kill more people than petroleum products? Can you site some evidence on this?

I still maintain that experts are full of disinformation. They make leaps of logic, produce a conclusion and publish it. What testing or experiments have really been done with biofuels that magically gives experts the conclusions they're publishing? I take everything they say with a big dose of salt because.....they will say eroneous things to continue to get funding then correct themselves later but have a new issue to research for more funding. It's all just a game with these people.

By rhangman on 2/26/2008 1:36:15 AM , Rating: 2
A "vital breakthrough"? Certainly biofuels are nothing new (the model T Ford ran on ethanol).

I'm sure that the German's would have had planes running on biodiesel towards the end of WWII when they were running out of fuel. Also the Russian's had a natural gas powered Tupolev back in the 80's.

What's next? Bring back the horse and cart and call that an alternative fuel breakthrough?

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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