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March 21st, 2013:

Air travel is an environmental sore spot

Air travel is an environmental sore spot


Special to The Globe and Mail

PublishedThursday, Mar. 21 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Covering a global industry like automotive is air travel dependent.

I won’t go into the awful details, but my annual carbon footprint is alarming. British Airways estimates in-flight carbon dioxide emission of a 10th of a kilogram per passenger, per kilometre. It’s more for short-haul flights. A 7-1/2 hour overseas flight means a passenger like yours truly can be responsible for kicking out about 700 kilograms of CO2 going one way.

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Aviation has been growing faster than any other source of greenhouse gases and flying now accounts for about 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more in developed countries. The aviation industry wants to stop growth of carbon emissions by 2020 and hopes to achieve a 50 per cent decrease in carbon emissions only by 2050.

Jet fuels are kerosene-based and, given the energy density of kerosene, there really is no commercial alternative to the stuff at the moment. However, the U.S. military and a number of airline companies and airliner manufacturers have invested heavily in jet fuel made from plants – the oils provided by weedy camelina or jatropha shrubs or even algae.

A number of these biofuels have successfully passed trials over recent years. None of the tests I have seen involve mixing any more than 50 per cent biofuel into the regular kerosene-based stuff; also these biofuels are more expensive and not available in enough quantity or in enough places to be counted on by airlines. However, I have noticed two recent developments that suggest progress.

British Airways just signed a deal to purchase waste-to-biojet fuel produced by GreenSky from a facility under development in East London by U.S.-based Solena Fuels Corp. According to the purchase agreement, British Airways will buy fuel produced at the plant for the next 10 years, worth approximately $500-million. British Airways, like most of the industry, has a goal to reduce its net carbon emissions 50 per cent by 2050.

More than 150 jobs will be created to operate the facility, as well as an estimated 1,000 during construction. The partners aim to have the plant operational by 2015. Robert Do, president of Solena, said the agreement represents the largest advanced biofuel commitment ever made by an airline.

Another announcement last week came from KLM. A new KLM Royal Dutch Airlines route between Amsterdam and New York’s JFK will be the first to use RSB-certified fuel. RSB means Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and it certified that the jet fuel produced will meet environmental and social safeguards.

The fuel is supplied by SkyNRG, the first worldwide biofuel operator to achieve the RSB certification for its entire supply chain. The company only uses sustainable feedstock for conversion into biofuel, and ensures that protected areas and wildlife habitats are unaffected by the growth of feedstock. This is then processed and refined into Jet A1 fuel for use in aircraft.

The climate-friendly value of these biofuels depends largely on how they are produced. It turns out that fuel made from palm oil is worse for greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere than jet fuel refined from petroleum because it involves clearing rainforest or peatland.

The short-term impact of biofuels for aviation is rather limited. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) thinks a 6 per cent share of sustainable second-generation biofuels is achievable by 2020. Boeing supports a target of 1 per cent of global aviation fuels by 2015. This all supports the industry’s goal of stopping growth of carbon emissions by 2020 and achieving a 50 per cent decrease in carbon emissions by 2050.

A better idea might be to have people like me travel less. It’s the growth of aviation that threatens to overwhelm cuts in greenhouse gas achieved elsewhere. Critics have also targeted frequent-flier programs like the one of which I am a top-level member.

International air travel results in yet more “free” air travel with the accumulation of points. The perk of frequent flier miles often leads to personal trips that would not be taken if the ticket had to be paid with personal funds. That’s a hard cycle to break. I, for one, hope the biofuels catch on quickly

Cayman Islands News

Mount Trashmore – a mountain of resource?
Posted on Thu, 03/21/2013 – 08:35 in Viewpoint

Rolf Stein

In the many years that islanders have sought to resolve the environmental
debacle that looms over the capital, various schemes have been proposed
for dealing with Mount Trashmore; from shipping scrap metal to China,
constructing a dry ski slope and setting up a new waste site at Bodden
Town. The WISE website outlines a plethora of sustainable alternatives,
which, if applied, amount to a comprehensive and sustainable waste
management solution for the future whilst also proposing options for
returning the George Town site to its natural, pre-rubbish dump state
through landfill mining.

During the time that this debate has been raging there has been a
complete revolution in conventional wisdom about waste management. Waste
is becoming increasingly viewed as a revenue-generating resource rather
than as something to be thrown away. New technologies are driving the
change in perception as they have created the means to transform waste
into a resource thereby creating the means for sustainable waste
management and safe, clean landfill removal.

Landfill sites can now be mined for their valuable recyclates because
rubbish dumps and historic waste streams contain concentrations of
valuable materials such as metals that will be processed and recycled.
That which cannot be recycled can be converted into renewable power and
heat using advanced conversion technologies. These new technologies
ensure that the maximum value is extracted from this residual material
enabling the return of landfill sites to their natural state for
development of community use.  Indeed, Advanced Plasma Power (APP) is
pioneering such a landfill mining project in Belgium and such an approach
could be applied to Trashmore.

Taking this view of waste is a complete paradigm shift. Rather than
treating waste as a problem to be disposed of, and relying on
rapidly-depleting sources of fossil fuels to meet our mounting energy
needs, advanced conversion technologies can convert municipal, commercial
and industrial waste into clean, sustainable energy.  Advanced
gasification plants are very compact and are designed to sit
unobtrusively on the edge of towns taking the waste that the town
generates and providing vital, proximate and cost effective resources in
return. Visual and environmental impact are kept to a minimum.

APP’s Gasplasma process is a game changer for managing waste in the built
environment as it produces no waste outputs and has low emissions. APP’s
plasma conversion delivers such a clean, high quality syngas that it can
be used directly in efficient gas engines and gas turbines to generate
power. The process generates no waste outputs as any ash is vitrified
into an environmentally stable and saleable construction product –

Furthermore, the output from the plants need not be limited to power; APP
is also pioneering the way in developing next generation waste to fuel
plants. The clean gas produced by the process can also be used to
substitute natural gas or other fuel gas.

Aligning waste policy with renewable energy policy will allow a
sustainable and cost-effective alternative to current practices.  In the
case of the Cayman Islands the benefits are even more profound. The
ever-growing toxic mound leeches into the water and the surrounding
environs, threatening the environment, tourism and possibly even human
health. The solution really needn’t be that complicated.

Rolf Stein is Chief Executive of Advanced Plasma Power

SEN visits Macau

The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, leading a Hong Kong Special Administrative Government delegation, today (March 21) attended the 2013 Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum & Exhibition to learn more about the green business opportunities brought about by the latest environmental technologies.

In the morning, Mr Wong attended the forum’s opening ceremony and its keynote address session, and toured the exhibition booths.

He also called on the Chief Executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region, Mr Chui Sai-on, to exchange views on strengthening co-operation in environmental protection between Hong Kong and Macau. He then attended a networking luncheon.

In the afternoon, Mr Wong visited the Macao Cotai Ecological Zones to see the wetland and mangrove conservation work that has taken place there. The ecological zone’s natural habitat nurtures a wide range of plants and animals, with many bird species also resident in the area.

Mr Wong then visited the Macao Refuse Incineration Plant to learn more about Macau’s waste management. Apart from treating waste, the facility recovers heat energy from waste combustion to generate electricity for Macau’s power grid.

Mr Wong and the delegation will conclude the visit and return to Hong Kong in the evening.

Ends/Thursday, March 21, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:16