NASA’s recent study could be good news for Leonardo DiCaprio’s carbon footprint
|Photo from United Airlines|
It’s estimated that a whopping four billion of us will travel by commercial aircraft this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). With that statistic in mind, it’s no surprise that finding a way to reduce fossil fuel emissions associated with air travel is a hot topic for AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) supporters.
Encouragingly, a recent study by NASA may have found a solution. In a press release earlier this month, NASA stated “Using biofuels to help power jet engines reduces particle emissions in their exhaust by as much as 50 to 70 percent” following the findings of the two year investigation into renewable fuel sources.
The study involved NASA’s Douglas DC-8 jet (a four-engine long-range narrow-body jet airliner) flown at altitudes up to 40,000 feet burning a combination of jet fuel and a renewable alternative made from camelina plant oil. Data was collected by research aircraft trailing the DC-8 at a range of distances measuring emissions and contrail formations. "This was the first time we have quantified the amount of soot particles emitted by jet engines while burning a 50-50 blend of biofuel in flight," said Rich Moore, lead author of the Nature report.
Condensation trails (more commonly referred to as contrails) are the white cloud like streaks which can often be seen criss-crossing the sky, marking the flight path of commercial jets. Contrails are created when hot air produced by jet engines mixes with cold atmospheric air typically associated with high altitudes. This condensation can create high altitude ‘clouds’, trapping heat within the atmosphere and affecting the Earth’s natural environment. Soot emissions from jet engines play a large part in the formation and properties of contrails. According to Bruce Anderson, ACCESS project scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, "… the observed particle reductions we’ve measured during this study should directly translate into reduced ice crystal concentrations in contrails, which in turn should help minimize their impact on Earth’s environment."
While it’s not exactly surprising that an aircraft burning biofuel produces less emissions than the fossil fuel alternatives, the big question is; with crude oil prices hovering around US$50 a barrel, are the environmental benefits enough to persuade airlines to make the change to the greener, but less economical, renewable alternative.
Article Written by: Anna Henchy