Want to Fly? Bring Garbage

The number of airline passengers is projected to more than double by 2035.

Simultaneously, airlines could be prohibited from using jet fuel made from oil if the UNFCCC and EPA have their way.

Jet fuel made from oil emits CO2, and, according to the UNFCCC, IPCC and EPA, CO2 emissions cause climate change.

For this reason, airlines, plane manufacturers and the government are spending millions in an effort to develop jet biofuels made from garbage and non-food crops.

The FAA has said it will award $7.7 million in contracts to eight companies to help develop biofuels from sources such as alcohols, sugars, biomass and organic materials known as pyrolysis oils.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its German counterpart, the BMVBS, signed an agreement in 2014 to promote, develop and use jet biofuels.

This is another example of CO2 global warming hysteria affecting everyone who flies, whether for business or for pleasure.

It begs the question: Is developing biofuels either feasible or necessary?

Based on daily consumption, as shown in the accompanying chart, nearly 2 billion barrels of jet fuel are used each year.

Based on a doubling of miles flown, and assuming that the efficiency of jet engines is improved by 30%, nearly 110 billion gallons of jet biofuel will be needed annually by 2030.

World Jet Fuel Consumption
World Jet Fuel Consumption


Is it feasible to produce 110 billion gallons of jet biofuel each year?

Two companies in the news are Red Rock Biofuels and Fulcrum Bioenergy.

Red Rock uses wood pulp to make biofuel while Fulcrum Bioenergy uses municipal solid waste (MSW).

Both say they use the Fischer-Tropsch process that was developed in Germany in the 1920s. It’s been used successfully with hydrocarbons by SASOL to produce oil from coal in South Africa. It’s also been used to produce diesel fuel from natural gas.

The technology has been proven for use with hydrocarbons, but both companies will need to demonstrate that the Fisher-Tropsch process works with cellulosic or other materials. They will also need to provide cost information which is not currently available on their web sites.

The fundamental feasibility of producing jet biofuel from any process can be determined by calculating the amount of feedstock required to produce 110 billion gallons of jet biofuel each year.

The following analysis of available feedstock provides an insight into whether these companies can produce the required quantities of jet biofuel to replace Jet fuel made from oil.

Red Rock Biofuels

Red Rock’s website states it can produce 16 million gallons of jet biofuel from 175,000 tons of woody pulp annually. The Clemson Extension provides information on tons per acre for various ages and heights of pine trees. For example, one acre of 70 ft tall, 30-year-old loblolly pine trees produces 140 tons of pulp.

As a result, 8.7 million acres of 30-year-old pine trees are required each year as feedstock for Red Rock’s process. This is larger than the area of New Hampshire.

In other words, an area over thirty times the size of New Hampshire is required by Red Rock to grow enough trees to meet the annual requirement for jet biofuel where trees are harvested annually.

Fulcrum Bioenergy

Fulcrum Bioenergy’s website says it can produce 10 million gallons of jet biofuel annually with a 200,000 ton supply of municipal solid waste (MSW). To supply 110 billion gallons of jet biofuel, Fulcrum Bioenergy will require 2.2 billion tons of MSW.

The average American produces approximately 2.3 pounds of residential MSW daily, which, for 350 million Americans, amounts to 143 million tons annually.

In other words, Fulcrum Bioenergy will need 16 times as much residential MSW as is generated annually in the United States.

(It should be noted that the Fulcrum website provides alternative data indicating that, using 1.3 billion tons of MSW generated worldwide, a smaller amount of biofuel will be produced than indicated by the data from the proposed Sierra Biofuels plant, and that the output will include both diesel and jet biofuel.)

A similar analysis was done two years ago for algae, which arrived at similar conclusions for gasoline. See, Latest on Algae.

The cost of these jet biofuels is probably going to be greater than jet fuel made from oil.

The US Navy recently paid four times the cost of traditional jet fuel for the jet biofuel it purchased for a demonstration project.

But, is cutting CO2 emissions from jet engines even necessary?

Aviation CO2 emissions are only 2% of total worldwide CO2 emissions, while China currently accounts for approximately 30% of worldwide CO2 emissions.

China’s emissions are forecast to increase approximately 170% by 2030 as the result of the recent Obama – China agreement. This increase will far outweigh any possible reduction in CO2 emissions from forcing the aviation industry to switch to biofuels.

China 2030 CO2 Emissions with Obama Accord
China 2030 CO2 Emissions with Obama Accord

It would seem that eliminating CO2 emissions from jet engines should have a relatively low priority, given the large increase in CO2 emissions from China.

But, this assumes CO2 emissions are the cause of global warming, which science is rapidly disproving.

It would appear that it may be technically possible, if 262 million acres of trees are planted around the world, and if municipal solid waste is collected in the US, Europe, Russia, South America and Asia, to produce enough jet biofuel to meet the requirements of the aviation industry in 2030, but at a cost that’s probably greater than the cost of jet fuel today.

Only three feedstocks, trees, garbage and algae, were discussed in this article as potential feedstocks for producing jet biofuel, but, other than food crops, there are not many additional feedstocks capable of producing a jet biofuel having the required energy content.

Using a food crop has been called a crime against humanity, and should be avoided for that reason.

Maybe, when you buy your plane ticket in the future, you will be asked to bring garbage with you.

You can decide whether pursuing jet biofuel is a fools errand.

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