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Air New Zealand is the latest airliner to test a new biofuel

In an attempt to reduce its fuel bill and limit its carbon footprint, Air New Zealand successfully tested a new vegetable oil biofuel during a two-hour trial flight earlier in the week.

The flight "milestone" involved using a 50-50 mixture of jatropha oil -- made from a plum-sized fruit -- with regular jet A1 fuel in one engine of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft.  The biofuel industry has also shown a strong interest in using grass, algae and halophytes as possible biofuels.

"There's still a lot of analysis to be done but we achieved a lot with the test flight and the maneuvers we've done," Air New Zealand pilot Captain Dave Morgan told the New Zealand Herald.  "The aircraft performed flawlessly."

Despite a stronger movement to use biofuels to power cars, airline companies have been working with jet manufacturers to try and integrate biofuels for commercial flights.  Last February, Virgin Atlantic tested a flight with a mixture of Brazilian nuts and coconuts with regular jet fuel.  Continental Airlines plans to test a flight using a 50-50 mix of traditional jet fuel along with algae and jatropha.

Aviation industry insiders indicate it'll be easier to convert planes to biofuels when compared to cars, trucks and other land vehicles -- the infrastructure would involve only a few hundred fueling station, rather than the millions that would be required.  Critics say airliners relying on biofuels could help increase deforestation in the Amazon rain jungles, and could lead to food prices increasing further in the future.

Airline companies were hit hard in 2008 by skyrocketing oil prices and must now prepare for less air travelers due to the struggling economy.  Expect both jet manufacturers and airline companies to work together to in the future to hasten the adoption of biofuels.

This is first stage in ANZ's attempt to utilize sustainable fuel development, and it's unknown when the company plans to launch further tests.

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Lessons learned?
By Nfarce on 1/1/2009 9:55:37 AM , Rating: 3
Critics say airliners relying on biofuels could help increase deforestation in the Amazon rain jungles, and could lead to food prices increasing further in the future.

What, did nobody learn anything from corn prices and the following food price increases after the increase in ethanol production? There is hardly a product on grocery store shelf that does not have some variant of corn in it, and of course everyone knows how much beef prices have gone up. Thanks for nothing, especially since my Infinity owner's manual says NO to ethanol blends. I don't want that feel good corrosive crap in my tank. The only people who really benefit from it are the farmers.

In any event, does anyone have any sense of sanity and realism on the scale of how much algae or nut plants and coconut trees it would take to produce biofuel? Lets be more realistic in this second attempt at alternative fuels please.

RE: Lessons learned?
By Tsuwamono on 1/1/2009 10:25:57 AM , Rating: 2
If made from sugar cane like they do in brazil it wont really effect much. Brazil has been using biofuel for years...

RE: Lessons learned?
By Nfarce on 1/1/2009 10:59:22 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah but Brazil is the #1 producer of sugar cane, isn't it? We aren't Brazil and can only grow sugar cane in south Florida and Hawaii, let alone the scale of our energy demands in comparison. As we say in America, that dog won't hunt.

RE: Lessons learned?
By Ringold on 1/1/2009 11:00:32 PM , Rating: 2
Brazil has been using biofuel for years...

What does that prove?

How much lower would various crop prices be if Brazil converted all that sugarcane production for vehicles to production for human consumption? Hard to say, general equilibrium prices for the entire globe isn't exactly something a human can do in their head, but logic dictates more supply with a given demand leads to lower prices. Thats just 101 stuff.

There is simply no way to take land that could be dedicated to food production and instead growing fuel for vehicles and say that there is no real effect. Just because Brazil currently grows sugarcane for fuel consumption doesn't mean there aren't potentially very large opportunity costs.

RE: Lessons learned?
By JediJeb on 1/2/2009 2:25:28 PM , Rating: 2
The thing is we really don't have to take ground for producing food out of production to grow biofuels. The government is paying billions of dollars a year to keep large amounts of ground out of food production. These areas could be taken out of the set aside programs and put back into use to grow the biofuels with no effect on the food prices.

Also the farmers didn't benefit so much from higher corn prices, most of that went to the traders and other middle men. Until this past year, farmers were still getting the same price for the corn they produce that they got back in 1970, or sometimes even lower prices, yet they pay over 10 times as much for their fuel and equipment as they did in 1970. As for beef, a fed out steer is selling at about $0.70 per pound right now to farmers, maybe even a little less, that is the same price they got for them back in 1970 also. Yet when you buy it in a store the price is much higher, all the money is being made in between.

This past year has actually help farmers pay off some of the debt they have accumulated over the years because the average consumer wants cheap food and the people who handle the products between the farmer and consumer want a bigger share. If the average farmer had a lifestyle like the average middle class worker has, then we would be paying $10 for loaf of bread and $20 for a BigMac.

Sorry for the rant, but it just burns me up when someone mentions farmers making out big when they got the shaft just like everyone else.

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