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Biofuel makes Aviation Debut

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Rob West
Rob West

The World’s first commercial aviation test flight was a resounding success according to Dave Morgan, Chief Pilot for Air New Zealand.

In a two hour test flight, one of the 747’s engines was powered by a 50/50 blend of standard fuel with synthetic fuel made from the oil of jatropha plant seeds. This test of a second generation biofuel follows the testing of a Virgin Atlantic flight last year, which utilised coconut and babassu oil instead. This test flight was a joint venture involving Air New Zealand, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell Company UOP, with support from Terasol Energy and according to the Chief Executive of Air New Zealand, Rob Fyfe; it was a significant milestone toward a more environmentally sustainable company. Thanks to this test however, it is a milestone for more than just the company. With corporate entities not only acknowledging the alternatives to fossil fuels but actually attempting to use them commercially, this is a significant step for the planet toward a more sustainable future.

John key, who as well as being Prime Minister is also Tourism Minister, went so far as to throw his support behind the scheme. This is more of a sign that he favors big business than the environment surely, as his record thus far suggests.

The tests, which continue on the ground consist of various different aspects including takeoff, climb, cruise, acceleration, deceleration, descent and landing will hopefully secure jatropha oil a place as a certified aviation fuel. It has facets desirable in an aviation fuel like few other biofuels such as a low freezing temperature, making it a truly potential replacement for other less efficient and harmful fuels.

Biofuels have their enemies however, even a Greenpeace spokesman has spoken out against the test questioning the potential damage producing this plant will have on the global agricultural food market. Jotrapha has another great advantage however, it is extremely hardy and grows practically anywhere. This could provide a sustainable cash crop for nations that do not have perfect arable soil such as the pacific nations. Of course managed in the wrong way it could cause food shortages and will undoubtedly be blamed in the future for them. However, it is a step in the right direction and from massive corporations that cause a vast amount of pollution and damage to the World and its peoples. Even acknowledging an alternative is a step forward. If this can be used to help poorer nations develop, all the better.Sometimes I would far rather be the optomist than slandering any attempt at change, which is after all what the environmental movement is pushing for.

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