Special focus: biofuels and the future of energy
The production and use of biofuels is experiencing acceleration in both the scale of the industry and the number of countries involved. This pace of advancement in technology, policy, and investment suggests that these fuels have the potential to displace a significant share of the oil now consumed in many countries.
Surging investment in biofuel production is being driven by a variety of factors, including the development of more efficient conversion technologies, strong new government policies, the desire to find new markets for farmers' products and, primarily, the rising price of oil and the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Selected biofuels news
Biofuels could produce twice the carbon emissions of the fossil fuels they replace, environmentalists have claimed.
A commercial aircraft has completed a test flight partially powered by second-generation biofuels, in a move to demonstrate the feasibility of using more sustainable fuels in existing aircraft.
British biologists working on developing biodiesel alternatives to petrol have sealed a research agreement with their counterparts at a Chinese university.
An Oxfordshire biotechnology company has secured funding to develop a low-cost manufacturing process for 'next generation' biofuel.
Chemical engineers at Purdue University in Indiana are working on a process for producing liquid fuels from plant matter that, they believe, could provide all the fuel needed for "the entire US transportation sector."
A train running on biodiesel-blend has started running scheduled passenger services for the first time in Europe. The Virgin Voyager made its inaugural run today (Thursday) from London to north Wales carrying Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson and prime-minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown.
Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Air New Zealand are teaming up to conduct a biofuel test flight, as part of a wider programme of research into viable and sustainable alternative fuels for commercial aviation.
Transport group Arriva is trialling B20 biodiesel - a blend of normal and plant-derived diesel - for the first time on its buses.
A major bus company has abandoned UK trials of biodiesel because of concerns over the sustainability of the fuel production process.
Bus operator Stagecoach has launched a six-month environmental initiative that will let bus customers exchange used cooking oil for discounted travel. The Bio-bus scheme is expected to cut CO2 emissions by 82 per cent.
A Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet has flown from London to Amsterdam using a biofuel blend alongside conventional jet fuel.
Selected biofuels features
The use of synthetic biology techniques is opening new doors in the production of renewable biofuels but, as E&T discovers, this work is still at an early stage of development.
Is the rail industry racing up the wrong track in its haste to boost its green credentials?
It isn’t just carbon-belching coal-fired power stations that are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. With 27 per cent of total output, the electricity industry is undeniably the UK’s largest source of CO2 emissions, but at 25 per cent the transport industry comes a very close second.
At present biofuels are being heralded as one of the solutions to reducing the use of fossil fuels, but everything is not as rosy at it initially appears in the biofuels garden.
What are the alternatives to sugar and grain-based biofuel crops?
"How to clone dinosaurs and other (im)possible blockbuster biotech - medical nanobots; computer-brain interfaces; miniature robots; sci-fi Ra-Pi."
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