cleantech insights

Game-changing day for jet biofuels

Emma Ritch

The aviation industry has taken a significant step in the adoption of biofuels, industry leaders said today.

The newly created Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group requires its members to use biofuels produced from nonfood sources and with minimal environmental impact.

Founders include Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Honeywell (NYSE: HON) subsidiary UOP, as well as the commercial airlines that account for 15 percent of commercial jet-fuel use: Air France, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Cargolux, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The group’s intent amounts to an endorsement of the progress being made by second-generation biofuel developers, said Randy Cortright, founder and chief technical officer of Madison, Wis.-based Virent Energy Systems, which develops gasoline and jet fuel from sugar. Specifications for jet fuels are extremely stringent because the industry is more risk-averse than other transportation methods, he said.

“They’re fairly skeptical of any type of compound that’s not petroleum,” he told the Cleantech Group. “But this industry support is clearly showing that the transportation sector is moving in this direction, and we are going to need to have that support from the end-users like this if we’re going to be …


White roofs could lower global emissions

Emma Ritch

Changing the color of roofs and pavement worldwide could potentially offset nearly a year’s worth of global CO2 emissions, according to a study released this week at the Conference on Climate Change in Sacramento, Calif.

Painting a single 1,000 square-foot dark roof white would reduce carbon emissions by 10 metric tons, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists Hashem Akbari and Surabi Menon and California Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld. And changing the color of roofs and pavement in 100 of the world’s largest cities could reduce global emissions by 44 billion metric tons, the researchers said.

The world produced 49 billion metric tons of emissions in 2004, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Scientists have long known that white roofs leads to lower cooling costs because they reflect, instead of absorb, heat (See New York transit going green and A look at U.C. Davis’ cleantech R&D). But researchers say this is the first study that estimates the actual impact on emissions.

“This simple and effective idea can organize the world into taking measured steps to mitigate global warming,” Akbari said in a news release. “Our findings will help city leaders and urban planners quantify the amount …

Meat is sacred?

Emma Ritch

The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did the unthinkable this week.

Rajendra Pachauri suggested people scale back on their consumption of meat, in part by eliminating it from their diet for one day a week. Pachauri’s logic was that nearly 20 percent of greenhouse emissions are caused by meat production, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

But a firestorm has erupted in response, with London’s mayor calling the suggestion “bull” and saying “the whole proposition is so irritating that I am almost minded to eat more meat in response.”

A column in the Sydney Morning Herald declares: “Not content with raising the cost of everything, terrifying small children and ruining the fun of driving, the gloom merchants of global warming now want us to stop eating meat to save the planet.”

And an editorial in Mumbai’s Daily News & Analysis sarcastically calls the recommendation “a new rule to abide by, for the virtuous earthling,” comparing it to a forthcoming big-brother style ban on smoking in public places.

What does this fierce opposition tell us about people’s desire to halt climate change? It turns out you can suggest people dump their gas-guzzling cars in favor of …