Monday, February 18, 2008
A joint public/private research partnership to develop greener aviation technology, was launched last month by the European Commission which dubbed the program The Clean Sky Initiative, funding it with 1.6 billion Euros. It is said to be the largest funding for a European Union research program in history and part of its focus will be on the development of low-noise regional aircraft. Other initiatives include the development of a "smart wing" design for fixed-wing aircraft; low weight, innovative rotor blades and turbine engines for rotorcraft; sustainable green engines; and eco-design to minimize fuel consumption and maximize recycling of old aircraft
Meanwhile, biofuels booster Virgin Group Chair Sir Richard Branson is pulling back from his support of biofuels on the grounds growing them would mean clearing too much land. He joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others in criticizing bio fuels. Bloomberg said that in a pitched battle between crops for food versus fuel would result in higher food prices and starving millions. BBC reported that at the same meeting – a UN Assembly debate on Climate Change – Branson regrets investing in ethanol for financial and environmental reasons. Autoblog Green reported the “criticism comes just days after a Science magazine study said biofuels can be twice as harmful as gasoline. If you look closely at what the Science Magazine scientists, Richard Branson, Mayor Bloomberg and others have said about biofuels, they are not saying biofuels are all bad, they're just criticizing the way they are predominantly made today.”
The blog pointed to a NBC Nightly News report saying that corn ethanol roughly doubles the amount of global warming emissions compared to using gas in cars. The loss of the best carbon absorbing lands would take centuries to recover including 423 years for the loss of Indonesian and Malaysian peat rainforests for palm biodiesel; 319 years for the loss of Brazilian rainforest for soybean biodiesel, 48 years for the loss of abandoned American farmlands for corn ethanol and 17 years for the loss of Brazilian woodlands for sugar cane ethanol, which also happens to be the cheapest biofuel manufactured to date.
Meanwhile Airbus, Dassault, Saab and Rolls Royce are among the 54 private companies participating in the Clean Skies initiative along with 15 research centers and 17 universities. Half the money will come from public funds from the EU's R&D funding program and the other half from industry. The project will look at six technical areas, from engines to overall aircraft design.
By 2020, the initiative hopes to have cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 50 percent, nitrogen oxide by 80 percent and noise pollution by 50 percent, as well as setting up an eco-friendly life cycle for products—across design, manufacture, maintenance and scrapping or recycling.