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This great news: apparently DARPA -- the US government agency that gave us things like the internet and such has figured out a procedure to produce bio-diesel jet fuel for less that $3 a gallon. This is great news for a number of reasons.

  1. for national security - no longer will the military be paying money to a nation / nations (I'm looking at you Saudi Arabia) that fund terrorism/extremism in order to fuel its fleet.
  1. for civilian use - whatever processes they develop should be able to be used by the general public eventually. A gasoline/ethanol version could also be developed based on their insights.
  1. algae-base biofuels are the greenest and most efficient of all biofuels. Corn and soy based fuels are barely better for the environment (if not worse) than actual petroleum. Only switchgrass even comes close to algae for use in producing biofuels.
  1. it won't take food out of our food system or take up crop land like other biofuels do. A few factories spread around the country could meet our needs.
  1. it represents a great synergy between left and right. The left doesn't want to fund the military, the right doesn't want to fund environmental research. By framing it as a national defense and a green issue, programs like this are successful in getting funding and not getting cut.

Here's hoping this doesn't fade away and/or get suppressed by the powers-that-be. It's encouraging that it's the powers-that-be themselves that created it though.

Originally posted to scott jones on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:48 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  More likely, they'll liquify coal (0+ / 0-)

      to make jet fuel.  This reminds me of the solar panels placed by the edge of I-395 in front of the Pentagon.  Decorative, but the place is really lit and heated by a coal plant on the premises.

      Here's what the AF claims:

         * the production process for turning coal into jet fuel eliminates sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and particulate emissions so, in that sense, jet fuel made from liquid coal burns cleaner than fuel made from oil.
         * Availability—We already know how to turn coal into jet fuel—the basic technology has been around since the 1920s—and the Air Force already has either tested or certified many of its planes for use of a 50/50 blend of synthetic and conventional jet fuel.
         * Practicality—Some airlines are already experimenting with biofuels, and scientists are working on other renewable fuels that may one day power vehicles and even airplanes. For the short-term, however, only oil, natural gas and coal offer reliable sources of aviation fuel.

      The Downside of Turning Coal into Jet Fuel
      As you might expect, turning coal into jet fuel has a few drawbacks as well:

         * Carbon Dioxide—If you look at the whole production process—from mining the coal to creating and burning the fuel—coal-based jet fuel produces twice as much carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming) as jet fuel made from petroleum.
         * Collateral Damage—Mining and burning coal is a dirty business, which damages the land, pollutes air and water, and puts public health at risk. The recent coal ash spill in Tennessee pointed up some of the unsolved problems of toxic coal waste disposal, while mountain-top mining has become the poster child for environmental degradation.
         * Sustainability—By replacing petroleum-based fuel with coal-based fuel, we’re trading one finite resource for another. Fossil fuels won’t last forever, and we can’t make more.
         * Legality—Section 526 of the 2007 energy bill makes it illegal for the U.S. government to spend taxpayer dollars on fuels that emit more greenhouse gases than those already in use.

  •  Thanks for the information. It has been a while (12+ / 0-)

    since I ran across an article on algae to biofuel. Good to know it's still in the works.

    Feb. 25, sorta like an onside kick to open the half?

    by maybeeso in michigan on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:54:50 AM PST

  •  The wastewater treatment plants... (13+ / 0-)

    ...and future manure digestion plants could conceivably become the fuel sources of the future.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:54:51 AM PST

  •  While all your points are valid, (9+ / 0-)

    I especially like your point #5, the synergy of left and right. Properly framed it gives the Party of No no exit.

    I heard some guy say that the arc of history bends slowly, but that it bends towards justice.

    by DaNang65 on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:56:06 AM PST

  •  a great diary, like to add (11+ / 0-)

    the effect this development should have on getting out the message that government is working for the people

  •  This is great news! (7+ / 0-)

    Along with the New Organic dairy news in another diary this morning.  Great to get "green" news on a snowy day.

    "Real History is not for Sissies" Barry McCain

    by Hill Jill on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 09:11:13 AM PST

  •  I know we get frustrated at the military budget (6+ / 0-)

    But they have made a lot of scientific advancements throughout our history.  Could these advancements be made by other agencies?  Sure.  But the military has done it, and I'm happy to have them however we get them.

  •  Cool! (6+ / 0-)

    Have you seen pictures of the deployed experiment to grow algae (for biofuels) in vertical units surrounding transparent-walled electrical generation boilers/furnaces? They get energy from the sunlight, of course, but also from the heat of the machinery and apparently can produce lots of algae very quickly. I had a photo on my other 'pooter, will look around...

    •  Looks cool, but it'll be way too expensive. (0+ / 0-)

      You know how much that much clear plastic costs?  And clear plastic photodegrades (some types more than others -- the ones with the longest lifespans are also the most expensive).  Glass doesn't photodegrade, but it also costs a lot more.

      There's on way that much plastic can be economically justified, which is why algae fuel plants have been one failure after another so far.

      The alternative that automatically comes to mind -- growing it in open ponds -- doesn't generally work.  You have a species of algae bred to produce you as much fuel as possible, kept free from all competitors and predators inside those tanks.  The outside world is a far more hostile place.  You could just live with whatever wild algae grow in an open pond, but then you need to find a way to justify the large expense and energy input for drying a low-fuel-output substance that's completely water-logged.

  •  alga-diesal!!! I love it, this is exactly what we (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, hikerbiker


  •  Thanks for the news! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irishwitch, FarWestGirl

    That is very interesting!  I'm a little worried by the 'still months away' bit, but it sounds very achievable.  They've already got the oil, they just need to refine it, which is long-standing technology.

    I think biodiesel would be the logical outgrowth of this technique for civilian use.  What these algae appear to be producing is kerosene, and some diesel engines can burn kerosene as it is.  All that would be needed is to persuade our little green friends to produce a slightly different mix of hydrocarbons.

    Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. H. L. Mencken

    by David R on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 09:58:51 AM PST

  •  I'll believe it when I see it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But I'd sure be happy to see it.  For starters, the military could produce fuel here in the U.S.  Which means we would be moving toward a world where we didn't have to bankrupt the country and engage in slaughter, just so we can keep the oil flowing.

    And the military's involved in one of these efforts.  There's your irony for ya.

    I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

    by tle on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 10:45:59 AM PST

  •  Make Science Not War! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irishwitch, FarWestGirl

    Perhaps the Bush years will come to be noted for proving science is a better investment than war.  

    Unless your real object is to transfer wealth to war profiteers, of course.

  •  The limiting factor with algae based fuels has (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    been the type of algae used and how labor intensive it is to keep the culture from being contaminated. There has been an open pond management approach that has a few pilot projects that looked fairly promising and I heard recently about a new, gene engineered algae that could produce fuel that doesn't need refining. Which method is DARPA using?

    And if you're interested, check out biofuels digest

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 11:19:39 AM PST

  •  I'd like to see someone... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, highacidity, JeffW, scott jones

    ... put their mind to making biofuel out of kudzu.

    jest sayin'

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 11:52:47 AM PST

    •  how about.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Land of Enchantment

      A jobs program for people clearing invasive species like Kudzu?

      Just a thought Obama...

    •  As someone who lives in GA, and who has kudzu (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unduna, Land of Enchantment, JeffW

      trying to take over her back yard --well, since NOTHING else seems to grow in GA red clay, maybe I should just surrender--I'd like to see something useful come out of the damned plant. Even the Japanese don't use it much for ground cover these days (or didn't in 2001 when we left after 7 years).

      The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

      by irishwitch on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 01:46:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Kudzu as useful is brilliant, (3+ / 0-)

        coming from this southern TN native. I could find several very nice crops right up the road....(The one and only thing that I like about kudzu is how the little golden tendrils look by the hundreds in a sunset.)

        (P.S. - I think you accidentally uprated a troll, but I also think it's pretty obviously an accident!:))

        "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

        by Unduna on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 03:29:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Guardian makes it sound like this all (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NCgrassroots, JeffW, scott jones

    started with DARPA, which is very far from the truth.  A lot of groups, many of them small and poorly capitalized, have been working on biodiesel for wuite some time now.  One of the Native American groups has even set up a significant pilot and decided to devote a significant effort and investment into these technologies.

    That said, it is very good to see this.  So long as DARPA doesn't follow its usual practices of licensing its technologies, for a pittance, exclusively to a couple of Fortune 500 companies, this could be a really great thing. Even if they are the same old DARPA, it will still be a good thing.

    It is really good to see that there is a change of substantially cutting the U.S. military's petroleum use in the near future.  The U.S. military is the second largest petroleum user in the world, second only to the entire USA.  Put another way, our military uses more petroleum than any nation state except the US.  The effect of this state of affairs on global geo-politics should be obvious, if you think about it, and curing that ailment would be vastly beneficial to all.

    "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

    by enhydra lutris on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 12:08:01 PM PST

  •  we are on the precipice... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...of both a climate catastrophe and the technology to stop it.  The only thing lacking is a price for carbon that would make all of these technologies pay for themselves.

    Right now, the US Senate is standing in the way of a bill that would literally save much of the world from mass extinction, starvation, and inundation.  The price of changing over to new technologies is way overstated.  Look at it this way - if we can make biodiesel in large quantities for $3/gallon - that's the same as diesel costs now.  Also, we are only a few years from having technology that would allow us to capture CO2 from natural gas plants.  If we can do that, we will be able capture CO2 from diesel-electric plants and start to reverse global climate change.  All we need is a bill, and a price for carbon.  That's it.

    Senators (mostly GOP, but also some retrograde Dems) who oppose setting a price for carbon are sentencing millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people to their deaths.  Do they know what's at stake?  Do they care?

    •  It is more important to rein in CO2 than (0+ / 0-)

      to rein in plastics.  Restricting CO2 does the former, carbon taxes/caps, not so much.

      "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

      by enhydra lutris on Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 12:44:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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