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June 20th, 2011:

Aviation Biofuels About to Take Off

By Dr. John C.K. Daly for

June 20, 2011 ( renewable energy/green newswire) An extraordinary convergence of recent events seems poised shortly to make aviation biofuels the belle of the investor’s ball.

The first is that on 8 June the follows the international standards certifying body ASTM International announcing its approval of its BIO SPK Fuel Standard, to be made official later in the year, of the use of hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) Jet A-1 fuel in commercial aviation. The potential financial implications are massive, as together the airline industry and the U.S. military use more than 42.25 million gallons (1.5 million barrels) of jet fuel a day.

One of the leading contenders for ramping up production of Jet A-1 HRJ is camelina, which has undergone extensive testing by both civilian airlines and the U.S. military. Camelina HRJ qualifies as a “drop-in” fuel, which can simply be mixed with regular Jet A-1 in a 50-50 ratio, allowing jet engines to function without any modifications.

In March 2010 Biomass Advisors released their 116-page study, Camelina Aviation Biofuels Market Opportunity and Renewable Energy Strategy Report, projecting that by 2025 one billion gallons of camelina biofuel would be produced for the aviation and biodiesel sectors, creating 25,000 new jobs and producing over $5.5 billion in new revenues and $3.5 billion in new agricultural income for U.S. and Canadian farmers. Biofuels Digest is projecting that global advanced biofuels capacity will reach 4.003 billion gallons by 2015, based on company announcements to date, with capacity reaching 718 million gallons in 2011, 1.522 billion by 2012, 2.685 billion by 2013, and 3.579 billion gallons by 2014.

Fuel and oil comprise 25 percent of civilian airlines’ operating costs. When the price of jet fuel rises one cent, it increases the global cost of aviation $195 million.

The second development is that the critical mass of HRJ fuels on both civilian and military aircraft has been completed, with various military and civilian aircraft flying with HRJ additives made not only from camelina, but jatpropha, algae, babasu and coconut oil, among others. Production is set to soar from small “designer” batches of HRJ produced up to now for testing.

Quick of the block in playing to the big boys, Neste Oil will showcase its NExBTL HRJ renewable aviation fuel at the Paris Air Show later this month and airlines in the Virgin Group are collaborating to attempt to develop and share aviation biofuels at their common port of Los Angeles International airport. More airlines are sure to follow.

Another unexpected development leveling the playing field for aviation biofuels was the unexpected vote on 16 June by the U.S. Senate to repeal tax credits worth about $6 billion annually for producing ethanol, produced from U.S.-grown corn. With its 73-27 vote, the Senate passed an amendment to end the 45-cent-a-gallon subsidy the government gives oil companies for blending ethanol into gasoline and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff it places on imported ethanol to protect the domestic market. Other biofuel producers for years have complained about the subsidies, which, contrary to popular imagery, go primarily to the oil companies, not small-time farmers.

Ethanol is the most heavily produced biofuel in the U.S., with nearly one third of U.S. corn production diverted to producing it while Brazil distills its ethanol from sugarcane, as an additive to gasoline. Other biofuel producers have complained that the subsidies both gave an unfair advantage to bioethanol producers but also soaked up much of the investment funding that might have other supported other renewables.

Between receiving formal approval for civilian airline use and the federal government preparing to end its support for U.S. ethanol welfare queens, sharp investors will be looking for potential winners on a playing field that is suddenly becoming much more level. And I haven’t even mentioned Pentagon interest in biofuels – yet.

A story for another time.


Camelina sativa, usually known in English as camelina, gold-of-pleasure, or false flax, also occasionally wild flax, linseed dodder, German sesame, and Siberian oilseed, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae which includes mustard, cabbage, rapeseed, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts. It is native to Northern Europe and to Central Asian areas, but has been introduced to North America, possibly as a weed in flax.

Climate denial and the abuse of peer review

20 June 2011

On 20 April 2010, a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and creating the largest oil spill in history.

When President Obama sought to hold the corporation accountable by creating a $20 billion damage fund, this provoked Republican Congressman from Texas Joe Barton to issue a public apology.

An apology not to the people affected by the oil spill … but to BP.

In a peculiar inversion of ethics, Barton called the President’s measures a “shakedown”, finding it a “tragedy in the first proportion” that a corporation should be held accountable for the consequences of its actions.

What does a Congressman’s inverted morality have to do with climate denial?

Quite a bit.

In a similar inversion of normal practice, most climate deniers avoid scrutiny by sidestepping the peer-review process that is fundamental to science, instead posting their material in the internet or writing books.

Books may be impressively weighty, but remember that they are printed because a publisher thinks they can make money, not necessarily because the content has scientific value.

Fiction sells, even if dressed up as science.

During peer review, by contrast, commercial interests are removed from the publication decision because journals are often published by not-for-profit professional organisations. Even if private publishers are involved, they make their profit primarily via university subscriptions, and universities subscribe to journals based on their reputation, rather than based on individual publication decisions.

Very occasionally a contrarian paper does appear in a peer-reviewed journal, which segments of the internet and the media immediately hail as evidence against global warming or its human causes, as if a single paper somehow nullifies thousands of previous scientific findings.

What are we to make of that handful of contrarian papers? Do they make a legitimate if dissenting contribution to scientific knowledge?

In some cases, perhaps.

But in many other cases, troubling ethical questions arise from examination of the public record surrounding contrarian papers.

For example, in 2003 the reputable journal Climate Research published a paleoclimatological analysis that concluded, in flat contradiction to virtually all existing research, that the 20th century was probably not the warmest of the last millennium. This paper, partially funded by the American Petroleum Institute, attracted considerable public and political attention because it seemingly offered relief from the need to address climate change.

The paper also engendered some highly unusual fall-out.

First, three editors of Climate Research resigned in protest over its publication, including the incoming editor-in-chief who charged that “…some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.”

This highly unusual mass resignation was followed by an even more unusual public statement from the publisher that acknowledged flaws in the journal’s editorial process.

Three editorial resignations and a publisher’s acknowledgement of editorial flaws are not standard scientific practice and call for further examination of the authors and the accepting editor.

The first author of this paper, Dr Willie Soon, is an astrophysicist by training. In US congressional testimony, he identified his “training” in paleoclimatology as attendance at workshops, conferences, and summer schools. (The people who teach such summer schools, actual climate scientists, published a scathing rebuttal of Soon’s paper.)

Undaunted, Dr Soon has since become an expert on polar bears, publishing a paper that accused the US Geological Survey of being “unscientific” in its reports about the risks faced by polar bears from climate change.

Most recently, Dr Soon has become an expert on mercury poisoning, using the Wall Street Journal as a platform to assuage fears about mercury-contaminated fish because, after all, “mercury has always existed naturally in Earth’s environment.”

Lest one wonder what links paleoclimatology, Arctic ecology, and environmental epidemiology, the answer is not any conventional area of academic expertise but ideology.

As Professor Naomi Oreskes and historian Erik Conway have shown in their insightful book, Merchants of Doubt, the hallmark of organized denial is that the same pseudo-experts emerge from the same shadowy “think” tanks over and over to rail against what they call “junk science”.

Whether it is the link between smoking and lung cancer, between mercury and water poisoning, or between carbon emissions and climate change, ideology inverts facts and ethics whenever overwhelming scientific evidence suggests the need to regulate economic activity.

So what of the editor who accepted the flawed Climate Research paper, Dr Chris de Freitas of Auckland?

Later, De Freitas co-authored a paper in 2009 that some media outlets heralded as showing that climate change was down to nature.

One of the authors, Adjunct academic Bob Carter from James Cook University, claimed that “our paper confirms what many scientists already know: which is that no scientific justification exists for emissions regulation.” Welcome news indeed, at least for the coal industry, but does the paper support this conclusion?


For starters, the 2009 paper by McLean, de Freitas, and Carter did not address long-term global warming at all.

It discussed the association between ocean currents and air temperature — in particular the time lag between the warm El Niño current and the ensuing increase in temperature.

Indeed, the article does not even contain the words “climate change” except in a citation of the IPCC, and its only conceivable connection with climate change arises from the speculative phrase “ … and perhaps recent trends in global temperature …” in the final sentence.

It appears ethically troubling to derive strong statements about emissions regulations from such a tentative clause in one’s final sentence in a paper on quite a different issue.

Such statements appear even more troubling if one considers paragraph 14 of the paper, which reads, “to remove the noise, the absolute values were replaced with derivative values based on variations. Here the derivative is the 12-month running average subtracted from the same average for data 12 months later.”

What happens to data if successive annual values are subtracted from each other? This mathematically removes any linear time trend.

In other words, temperatures could have doubled every other year and it would have escaped detection by the authors.

This removal of the trend did not escape detection by the scientific community, however, and the published rebuttal of this “it’s-all-natural” paper was as swift and devastating as it was for Dr Soon’s.

To remove the linear trend from temperature data in a paper that does not address climate change, and to then claim that nature is responsible for global warming and there is no scientific basis for emissions regulations smacks of an inversion of scientific ethics and practice.

Let us return to Congressman Barton.

Before apologising to BP, not for the nearly $3,000,000 he has received in contributions from the oil, gas, and energy industries, but for President Obama seeking accountability from the corporation, Mr Barton also sponsored a contrived investigation of the famed “hockeystick” paper by Professor Michael Mann and colleagues.

The hockeystick is the iconic graph that shows the sky-rocketing temperatures of the last few decades in comparison to the relatively constant temperatures during the preceding centuries. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences affirmed the basic conclusions of Professor Mann, as have numerous other papers published during the last decade.

Mr Barton, however, relied on a report by a certain Professor Wegman, who claimed to have identified statistical flaws in the analysis underlying the original hockeystick. (Even if correct, that criticism has no bearing on the overall conclusion of Professor Mann’s paper or on the numerous independent hockeysticks produced by other researchers.)

Professor Wegman subsequently published part of his report in the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis. Although normally a peer-reviewed journal, in this instance the paper was accepted a few days after submission, in July 2007, in an especially ironic twist as the paper tried to cast doubt on the quality of peer review in climate research.

Alas, the paper’s lifetime was cut tragically short when it was officially withdrawn by the publisher a few weeks ago.


The paper by Wegman and colleagues was officially withdrawn because of substantial plagiarism. Conforming to the typical pattern of inversions, Wegman also appears to have plagiarised large parts of his initial hockeystick critique for Congressman Barton, while additionally distorting and misrepresenting many of the conclusions of the cited authors.

We have examined just the tip of an iceberg of inversion of normal standards of ethics and scientific practice.

These multiple departures from common scientific practice are not isolated incidents – on the contrary, they represent a common thread that permeates all of climate denial.

Because climate denial is just that: denial, not scepticism.

Science is inherently sceptical, and peer-review is the instrument by which scientific scepticism is pursued.

Circumventing or subverting that process does not do justice to the public’s need for scientific accountability.

At a time when Greenland is losing around 9,000 tonnes of ice every second – all of which contributes to sea level rises – it is time to hold accountable those who invert common standards of science, decency, and ethics in pursuit of their agenda to delay action on climate change.

Stephan Lewandowsky is Australian Professorial Fellow at the Cognitive Science Laboratories at University of Western Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation – Reproduced with permission.

Merchants of Doubt

In their new book, Merchants of Doubt, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway explain how a loose–knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. In seven compelling chapters addressing tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, global warming, and DDT, Oreskes and Conway roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how the ideology of free market fundamentalism, aided by a too-compliant media, has skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.

Aviation industry is committed to addressing climate change impact

South China Morning Post – 20 June 2011

Richard Fielding (“Emissions accelerating, not declining”, June 13) rightly highlights the urgent need for society to address the global challenge of climate change and the role that aviation must play in this regard.

He also points to a little known fact that the aviation industry’s 70 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency since the dawn of the jet age has contributed to significant improvements in the sector’s environmental performance.

However, his assertion that today “aircraft and flights are a major source of anthropogenic emissions” fails to acknowledge that, in 2009, the International Air Transport Association and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global aviation produced 628 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), representing some 2 per cent of more than 30 billion tonnes of CO2 produced by humans worldwide. They measured other activities such as land use change and forestry (25 per cent), energy from buildings (20 per cent) and road transport (13 per cent).

To address the projected increase in aviation’s share of global man-made emissions to 3 per cent by 2050, according to the IPCC, the industry set unprecedented global targets in 2009 aimed at reducing its climate change impacts.

These include capping emissions growth from 2020 and halving net emissions by 2050, based on 2005 levels. Massive investment in new technology, the introduction of sustainable biofuels, improved global infrastructure and adoption of market-based measures such as emissions trading will all be key factors in enabling the industry to meet these ambitious goals.

Mr Fielding links a seven-fold growth in overall global man-made emissions by 2050 under a “business as usual scenario” to the proposal for a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport. But aviation is not on a “business as usual path”. On the contrary, an alternative business model already exists – one that considers climate change as part of a wider need for sustainable development. A third runway, if approved, would be operational by the early 2020s, by which time many of the radical efficiency measures now under development within aviation would have already been realised.

The public can be assured that aviation is fully committed to addressing its climate change impacts, has a strategy in place for tackling them, is investing significantly in solutions and that sustainability is at the heart of our future business model.

Mark Watson, head of environmental affairs, Cathay Pacific Airways (SEHK: 0293)