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Want to Fly? Bring Garbage

July 31, 2015

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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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2015 1:37 pm

    Thanks Donn, Another great article. Obama doesn’t mind using the Taxpayer’s dollars to buy tens of thousands of gallons of Jet Fuel to burn i gallon a second to fly to India and Africa and lecture the Leaders there on the merits of “Green Energy”. Hypocrisy at it’s highest. Meanwhile, we consume about 90 Quadrillion Btu’s of Traditional energy from coal, oil, gas and nuclear to power our Nation. Thankfully, the Oil Companies have remained resourceful and innovative enough to as your Blog is entitled provide, “POWER for THE USA”. Keep up the great work.
    Dick Storm

  2. Catcracking permalink
    August 1, 2015 7:39 pm

    Thanks for the latest informative article.
    It escapes my logic that cutting down massive amounts trees makes any sense at all since they take CO 2 and turn it into O 2. It is based on the false concept of renewable energy which also emits CO 2, but decades later will adsorb CO 2 as trees re grow.. I think past civilizations proved that burning all the forests to keep warm turned out to be anything but renewable.

    Also as I recall even the EPA determined that it takes something like 5 decades for ethanol from corn to be considered renewable energy, thus the push for cellulosic ethanol which has been a big failure.

  3. Catcracking permalink
    August 1, 2015 9:19 pm

    I just found this article that documents why renewables are a myth.

    This is an interesting presentation explaining why renewables are a myth.

    Lots of detailed info documenting the claim that is never mentioned in the MSM such as the fact that “The production of just six solar panels requires at least one tonne of coal to bake the silicon at high temperature”

    What is green about that?

    The Scotsman reports:

    ENVIRONMENTAL advantages of renewable energy are a myth – fusion energy is the way forward says Anthony Trewavas

    “Renewables use sun, water, wind; energy sources that won’t run out. Non-renewables come from things like gas, coal and uranium that one day will. But unless electricity and motorised transport are abandoned altogether, all “renewables” need huge areas of land or sea and require raw materials that are drilled, transported, mined, bulldozed and these will run out. Wind turbine towers are constructed from steel manufactured in a blast furnace from mined iron ore and modified coal (coke). Turbine blades are composed of oil-derived resins and glass fibre. The nacelle encloses a magnet containing about one third of a tonne of the rare earth metals, neodymium and dysprosium. Large neodymium magnets also help propel electric cars.”

    “Currently China provides 95 per cent of rare earths; proven reserves of dysprosium will likely run out in 2020. Processing one tonne of ore generates about one tonne of radioactive waste, 12 million litres of waste gas containing dust concentrate, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide, sulphuric acid and 75 thousand litres of waste water. Baotou, in China, mines and processes much of the rare earth ores. The town abuts a five-mile-wide, toxic, lifeless, radioactive lake of processed wastewater. Local inhabitants have unusually high rates of cancer (particularly in children), osteoporosis, skin and respiratory disease. This unseen environmental destruction may be far off but no less damaging.”

    “One thousand tonnes of concrete anchors the turbine base. The concrete used for the 5000 or so built or consented turbines in Scotland would be sufficient to construct an eight-lane motorway from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Cement production generates 7 per cent of the world’s emissions. Wilderness that is partitioned among turbines, access roads, crane pads and power lines is no longer renewable.”

    “The Oxford University conservationist, Clive Hambler, has summarised data from Sweden, Germany, Spain, Denmark and USA that indicate 100 birds are killed per turbine per year on average. For bats (that consume 3000 midges per night), it is 200. UK estimates for turbine wildlife mortality are not available. But with 5,000 Scottish turbines, premature destruction of birds and bats is in the million range per year. Organisations established by government to protect wildlife in Scotland are in denial over the damage their consent to wind farms is causing.”

    “Current expenditure on UK wind farms is more than £20 billion. If that money had instead been used to construct 30 gas-fired power stations to replace those using coal, emissions reduction would have been about 37 per cent. Pristine countryside, reliable energy supplies and undamaged wildlife would have been maintained. The present plethora of wind farms has only reduced emissions at best by 7.5 per cent; necessary use of gas-fired back-up for reliable electricity supplies makes it less than 4 per cent in practice.”

    “The production of just six solar panels requires at least one tonne of coal to bake the silicon at high temperature. Solar panel production plants generate 500 tonnes of hazardous sludge every year. Their manufacture releases hexa-fluoroethane, nitrogen trifluoride, and sulphur hexa-fluoride, greenhouse gases thousands of times more damaging than carbon dioxide.”

    The life expectancy of solar panels and wind turbines is one half to one quarter that of gas-fired or nuclear power stations. Dams for hydropower (concrete again) are only scheduled to last 50 years. The low density of energy for both wind and sun requires huge areas of land for electricity generation. To replace the recently closed Cockenzie power station (1.2GW) would require turbines covering a minimum of 70 square miles of countryside.

    Geothermal energy requires fossil fuels/cement for power station construction. Power transmission requires cables made either of steel, copper (mined and processed) or even carbon fibre processed from fossil fuels.”

    “The Drax coal-fired power station generates 7 per cent of UK electricity and has been partially converted to burning wood to benefit from government subsidies. A forest area substantially larger than Wales is needed for wood supply. But deforestation abroad to supply the wood threatens replacement of diverse ecosystems and wildlife damage with tree monocultures. When burnt, wood is dirtier than coal in releasing CO2, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates and organic volatiles. Up to 50 years are required to recover the CO2 emissions. Most biofuels produce some surplus energy over energy invested but with poor or negative emissions saving. Displacement of crop-growing land for biofuel forces food price rises.

    Renewable energy is a myth; none will last longer than the non-renewable sources they all need. Uranium and thorium reserves should last thousands of years. Nuclear fission in small, fast-neutron, modular reactors generates electricity but waste that decays in one to two centuries. A breakthrough in the construction of small containment vessels for deuterium/tritium fusion has been reported. One kg of fusion fuel produces energy equivalent to 10 million kg of fossil fuel. Deuterium is abundant in the oceans. This is the future, not renewables.”

    • August 2, 2015 9:09 am

      Great information.
      I hadn’t read the article, but I’m using the same approach. Renewables really aren’t renewable. They are a mirage that have unthinking people entranced with nonsense.


  1. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #191 | Watts Up With That?

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