“On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us.” – Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1830 in Edinburgh Review
“You have to have at least one square meal a day to be a conservationist or an environmentalist.” Richard Leakey, quoted by Dr. Norman Borlaug, Feeding a World of 10 Billion People: The Miracle Ahead, May 6, 1997
“At a time when doom-sayers were hopping around saying everyone was going to starve, Norman was working. He moved to Mexico and lived among the people there until he figured out how to improve the output of the farmers. So that saved a million lives.
“The he packed up his family and moved to India, where in spite of a war with Pakistan, he managed to introduce new wheat strains that quadrupled their food output. So that saved another million.
“You get it? But he wasn’t done. He did the same thing with a new rice in China. He’s doing the same thing in Africa — as much of Africa as he’s allowed to visit.
“When he won the Nobel Prize in 1970, they said he had saved a billion people. That’s BILLION! Carl Sagan BILLION with a B! And most of them were a different race from him.
Norman is the greatest human being, and you probably never heard of him.”
— Penn Jillette, of the comedy team Penn and Teller
It is just another quiet day in the neighborhood and I am thankful for my spouse, my friends, and my family–especially my sons in whom I am delighted as to who they have become. (Grammarians, do I have that right?)
Because biomass sources absorb carbon dioxide while growing and can have higher energy content than fossil-based fuel, their increased efficiency and use as aviation biofuel could potentially save millions of tons of aviation greenhouse gas emissions.
Air travel currently generates approximately 2 percent of man-made carbon emissions, and the industry has set aggressive goals to lower its carbon footprint, including the use of aviation biofuel when it becomes available.
According to a recent post on Scientific American, the airline industry conducted a number of test flights in 2008 and 2009:
“[C]ommercial airlines have flown four successful test flights using a variety of biofuel-jet fuel blends. Boeing was involved in all four flights, including a Virgin Atlantic flight using a coconut- and babassu-derived biofuel blend; an Air New Zealand flight using a jatropha-derived biofuel blend; a Continental Airlines flight using a blend of algae- and jatropha-derived biofuel; and a Japan Airlines flight using an algae-, jatropha- and camelina-derived biofuel blend…[And, Air New Zealand reported] that using a 50 percent blend of biofuel with traditional jet A-1 fuel can improve fuel efficiency by more than 1 percent.”
So, natural sources put 210 billion metric tons (98.5 per cent) of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere comes from natural sources in the world’s carbon cycle, and people add 3.2 billion metric tons (1.5 per cent) to the total (source: John Christy at University of Alabama, Huntsville). And, air travel accounts for 2 percent of human-caused carbon emissions. So, if we grounded all air travel, instead of 213.2 billion metric tons of CO2 going into the atmosphere (natural + man-made), the atmosphere would receive only 213.136 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, the difference is .064 billion metric tons. A 1 percent improvement in fuel efficiency for the total air industry would then mean (if my math is correct) instead of 213.2 billion metric tons of CO2, the total would be 213.19936.
Again, if the fuel is more efficient and less expensive, do it. Otherwise, it appears at first (and second and third) blush to make more sense for us to grow food or fiber, rather than fuel, in the ground.