In so much as biofuels are a good idea, they’re a really good idea for jets. Jet engines produce vast amounts of carbon (A gallon of jet fuel gives off 21 lbs of Co2) but there’s no alternative when you want to visit your dear old grammy who lives on the opposite coast. So the headlines about Virgin Atlantic running an actual test flight powered by coconut- and palm oil-based fuel had me gleefully reaching for the “O frabjous day!” category for this post. Alas. The 747 Virgin used to fly from London to Amsterdam has four tanks, three of which were nothing but regular jet fuel, and the fourth of which was 80% jet fuel and 20% coconut biofuel. So really the flight was 5% biofuel, which means that proportionally it flew 11 miles on coconuts, roughly from London to, err …London.
Even Virgin Atlantic owner Richard Branson himself admits that coconut-based biofuels won’t power the future air fleet. The world couldn’t possibly produce enough coconuts to fly the Monty Python troop to Camelot, let alone the entire world fleet, and the movers and shakers are starting to realize it’s probably not a great idea to use food for fuel anyway. Branson wants to extract energy from the thorny jatropha plant, which grows on non-arable land in South America., and I found a goofy company that thinks they can filter oxygen out of the air, while flying, and burn it as fuel immediately. But we all know the better answer: Poop fuel!