News / Science & Technology

    Boeing Looks to Make Tobacco Into Fuel in S. Africa

    FILE - South African Airways passenger jet.
    FILE - South African Airways passenger jet.

    Related Articles

    Video Philadelphia Laundry Succeeds by Being Green

    Social innovator launched Wash Cycle Laundry four years ago and not only achieved his initial goals but has plans to expand the business to other cities

    It’s rare to see tobacco being smoked on airline flights these days, but in the near future, tobacco could be used to power commercial jetliners.
     
    Boeing, South African Airways and SkyNRG have announced an initiative to create biofuel from a new kind of tobacco plant.
     
    The hybrid plant, known as Solaris, was developed by SkyNRG, a Dutch firm, is nicotine free and, according to Julie Felgar, managing director for Boeing’s Environmental Strategy and Integration, has many more seeds than traditional tobacco plants.
     
    For now, only the oil from the seeds will be used to make biofuel, but Felgar said technologies are being developed that could render fuel from the entire plant.
     
    "By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking," said Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist in a statement. "This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region's economic opportunity."
     
    There are two drivers pushing biofuel.
     
    First, over the past decade, aviation fuel prices have been volatile and increasingly higher, Felgar said. This, she added, makes it hard to operate. She said fuel accounts for around 35 to 40 percent of airlines’ operating costs.
     
    Secondly, airlines want to reduce their carbon footprint.
     
    According to the International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 airlines, the aviation industry accounts for 2 percent of global, man-made carbon emissions. Five years ago, the group said the industry was committed to capping carbon emissions.
     
    Boeing said sustainable biofuels could reduce carbon emissions “by 50 to 80 percent” compared to jet fuel.
     
    That will be difficult for an industry that operates on razor thin margins and is expected to grow rapidly over the next 20 years. Felgar said Boeing expects orders of 36,000 planes over that time.
     
    Boeing’s goal is that by 2016, the sustainable aviation biofuel supply will be capable of meeting 1 percent (600 million gallons) of global jet fuel demand.
     
    Tobacco won’t be a panacea, but merely a piece of the puzzle in moving toward widespread use of biofuel. Today, biofuels power only a tiny sliver of flights.
     
    Different regions of the world may have different biofuel solutions.
     
    As potential source of biofuel in the United Arab Emirates, Boeing said it was looking at the viability of a halophyte plant that can be irrigated with seawater. In Brazil, the company said, biofuels have been made from sugar cane. Another source can be found in discarded chicken fat.
     
    Felgar said it’s hard to predict when airlines’ use of biofuels will take off, but that developments over the past 7 to 8 years would indicate an “inflection point is coming up.”
     
    Other factors will help as well, such as better designed aircraft and more efficient operations on the ground, Felgar said.
     
    While many biofuels have been criticized for infringing on food crops, using water and land that could be used to grow consumable plants, Felgar said Boeing is working to ensure its biofuel is sustainable.

    Felgar said South Africa was a logical choice for this initiative because “South African Airlines is very progressive in their environmental commitment,” and that using the hybrid tobacco will help rural tobacco farmers who have been negatively impacted by decreasing demand for their product.

    You May Like

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Will New Russian Force Be 'Putin’s Personal Army'?

    With broad powers to control riots, suppress dissent, National Guard may be aimed at sending a message to West as much as keeping peace at home

    Foreign Media in Pyongyang Barred From North Korean Party Congress

    Hundreds of international journalists invited to cover historic party meeting barred from entering actual event

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
    August 08, 2014 7:33 AM
    Tobacco I have long believed is an invaluable plant that has been wrongly tarnished due to its connection to cancer through smoking. Tobacco will be considered as valuable as aspirin one day in the future. If I were an investor, I would invest heavily in tobacco growing for medicinal and industrial uses. This change for tobacco's image will bring healthy changes in our general outlook in life as we see positive aspects that some negative aspects have blinded us to seeing. It is indeed a theory I have had that the consumption of tobacco in the right levels as a food through tea or medicinal pills might even be a cure for cancer. We must see all aspects of an element or natural product in order to get the most out of it.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora