Sustainable Aero Lab disqualifies “Greenwash” investments

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 25, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Times change and the use of words with it. Today, the hundreds of UAM Air Taxi projects talk about how “environmentally friendly” this mode of transportation is, and Boom’s Overture is “the most Sustainable supersonic airliner.” The aerospace media recently focused on how we now have “Space Travel for everyone (in possession of the necessary pocket change).”

The head of Sustainable Aero Lab, Stephan Uhrenbacher, disqualifies these investments in a study on where to invest in fixing air transport’s pressing problems: “The startups receiving the most attention in aerospace recently have been doing space travel and urban air taxis. While these products make for exiting flying objects and satisfy human desire, neither air taxis nor putting more people in space address the problem facing commercial aviation: Flying needs to become carbon-free. And this needs to happen much faster than most people in the industry believe. It opens room for startups to provide components for future aircraft or even entire planes, but also new modes of operation.”

Figure 1. The promising Sustainable Aviation startups. Source: Sustainable Aero Lab.

What’s done to fix air transport’s real problem?

Projects seeking investments excel in presenting how “green” their innovative transportation method is—for example, air taxis:

  • Just because the vehicle doesn’t produce CO2 directly doesn’t mean it’s environmentally friendly. Air Taxi is the most energy-intensive method of getting a person to an airport, many times worse than train, subway, bus, car, or ground taxi. And for the foreseeable future, this energy generation means the emission of greenhouse gases.
  • Sustainable Aero Labs study also shows it’s capacity-wise a catastrophe (Study by Porsche consulting):

Yet air taxis are the darlings of the investment community, attracting billions of dollars in investment. The anti-pole, according to the Aero Lab study, is hydrogen investments, Figure 2, an area that can bring real change.

Figure 2. Hydrogen startup investments as a proportion of all Zero-emission investments. Source: Sustainable Aero Lab study.

These skewed investments, all falsely labeled as green, does little to help today’s pressing problem, our accelerating environmental problem.

Four areas worthy of investments

The Aero Lab study concludes four areas for greener air transport are worthy of investment (Figure 1):

  • The Digital Backbone: Many steps in today’s airline operations are still handled by humans, yet they could be automated and optimized for greater efficiency to reduce fuel burn. More efficient flight routing can immediately lower emissions without any other changes. And the same efficiency improvement can reduce emissions at airports.
  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF); offers enormous potential for reducing CO2 emissions in the short term. SAF has the potential to cut CO2 emissions across their lifecycle by up to 80% compared to fossil jet fuel, depending on the sustainable feedstock, production method, and airport supply chain. The production process needs a lot of innovation in the coming years, but the fuel is developed and works. The big advantage is there is no difference for current supply-chain operations.
  • Electric (and Electric Hybrid Propulsion): While electrification is promising for other transport modes, it faces near-term challenges for air transport. Aviation demands high power outputs and high energy densities. It will limit electrified air transport to shorter haul operations for now. A larger impact in the short term is electrified ground transportation. Here solutions exist, and they work well (electric trains, tramways, buses, carts..).
  • Hydrogen: it has the biggest potential for decarbonizing aviation over the next few decades. Unlike batteries, hydrogen just needs a top-up, so no recharging times, and as a technology, it’s lightweight. When fuel cells are available, they will also be emission-free; only water is produced together with energy. In the meantime, burning hydrogen in jet engines eliminates CO2 production and reduces NOx emissions five times. The hydrogen flip side is its challenging technology problems and that the tanks are light but space-intensive (hydrogen has three times more energy per kg but takes four times the space of today’s jet fuel).
Mentors help the startups

The idea of Sustainable Aero Lab is to not only help with investment in green aero tech but also to help the startups with advice. It has therefore recruited a group of industry Mentors, where your’s truly is one:

The consulting to the startups is pro bono (i.e., free of charge). It’s a way for the mentors to give back to the industry their knowledge for a good cause.

In addition to personal mentoring of startups with their technology choices and investment applications, the lab arranges free masterclasses in aeronautical technology. So far classes in Electrical aviation and Aircraft development have been presented,

96 Comments on “Sustainable Aero Lab disqualifies “Greenwash” investments

  1. Certainly aligns with my thoughts on the so called Urban Taxi. A scheme in search of a problem.

    Boom is a joke and the vastly better funded and now defunct Aerion. Kind of like a Taxi that goes 200 mph and is the most economical taxi that does so. Cool, why? Yea its better than a NASCAR race car that only carries one. Yes sir reee, we got 4 people to the Airport at a cost 10x a cab.

    I will disagree on Hydrogen at least mid term. Commercial Aviation is better off funding offset be it natural gas, electric or hydrogen and going with sustainable fuels. The best you could do with Hydrogen is a regional airliner at a lot more cost.

    The basics don’t look to change on Hydrogen. Big tanks, lots of space taken up and you can’t stuff the Hydrogen where you can Jet Fuel.

    • TW “Boom is a joke and the vastly better funded and now defunct Aerion. ”

      Not coherent.

      Facts are needed t back your claim that Aerion was better funded tan Boom – remember it could not attract more investment.

      Aerion was criticized for not doing real things, whereas Boom has built a technology demonstrator which should be close to flying. Boom is also testing its pilot vision system in simulator and a small airplane.

      • Yes Aerion sounded more well managed but Boom has the XB-1 “Baby Boom” and once flying will show how well their analysis works and how fast and skillfully they can fix problems popping up. Then comes the small detail of getting $15-25 bn to take the Overture to certification with a partner that has done it before.

        • Keith:

          Aerion had major backing (for better or worse) of Airbus, LM and GE I believe.

          Boom in my opinion is creating bright shiny objects to keep the scam going.

          • TW: “Aerion had major backing (for better or worse) of Airbus, LM and GE I believe.

            Boom in my opinion is creating bright shiny objects to keep the scam going.”

            What are you blabbering about?

            Aerion couldn’t have had much money from whoever as it couldn’t produce much, lots of PR, reminds me of an outfit I once talked to that had great PR including an article in AW&ST magazine but had not even built a prototype of its sensor.

            Whatever Boom’s chances, which I have cautioned about, it has in fact made things and recently was given more financing – Aerion was not.

            Why are you so hostile to Boom that you try the ‘scam’ slur? Do you have evidence that would defend against a lawsuit for defamation?

          • I will come to TW’s support here. Aerion prodoced BS only in the very end (AS3), but Boom have been producing BS from the very start. Mach 2.2 was “Concorde + 10%”, no other reason, and the, recently admitted their BS by retreating to Mach 1.7. The remaining, and greatest, BS is their cabin size of up to 88 seats. The global market for such a plane can be counted on two hands’ fingers. But they will keep riding that huge PR wave they started until serious money is required and the real investors will pull back after doing their own market research.

          • ‘Bernardo’ and ‘Trans World’ are trying to smear Boom Supersonic with empty rants and false claims.

            Bernardo claims that Boom has reduced planned speed of its supersonic transport to M1.7.

            That makes no sense, it has always planned to be at or above Concorde’s speed.

            Concorde was limited to M2.04 by its aluminum materials when painted white (lower if painted dark), Boom plans 2.2 which I understand is just below a sharp change in efficiency. Boom’s business plan is to use modern technology to allow much lower fares than the Concorde.

            The only direct source I can find for the M1.7 value is on one page of a sloppily done web site by Boom, several other pages show M2.2.

            Whether or not Boom succeeds – and sloppy web site is not a good sign for thorough development – Boom has done real things with wind tunnel tests, structural tests, and fabrication of a flight demonstration airplane. Boom has involvement with money from Japan Airlines. We’ll see what performance is when it flies, now predicted for 2022.

            So Bernardo and TransWorld, do you have evidence of your claims or are you just fantasizing negatively for some perverse reason?

            (And hiding behind false names.)

          • Keith,
            last time I checked, there was no requirement for real names in this forum.
            Second, try and imagine that there are people doing actual scientific research to study these very issues for long periods of time, and that they know what they are talking about, instead of just talking haphazardly.

  2. Congratulations Bjorn.

    Your series here on Electric, Hybrid and Hydrogen developments has been superb and extremely valuable and I reference it frequently.

  3. It’s about time that an earnest effort was made to expose the huge amount of fluff in the sustainable/green movement. Terms like “green”, “eco”, “sustainable”, “planet proof”, etc., are insufficiently defined/regulated, and they attract gullible hordes of hype followers who do not look critically beyond a glossy veneer on the surface. It’s reminiscent of the “ hype” in the late 1990s: investors back then piled blindly into anything that was “”, without asking themselves what underlying substance (if any) was present. Then and now, this gullibility was/is exploited by resourceful hawks who are looking to make a quick and easy buck.

    It is, of course, not the only such hype at the present time: cryptocurrencies fall into a similar category of hot air, lack of definition/regulation, and backing by gullible investors.

    • You’re missing one point. The science says that we have to stop emitting CO2. That’s fact, not hype.
      There is a lot of mis-use of terminology, but only from industrial players who want to ‘Green wash’ themselves and their processes. e.g. A common one is to claim that a process in carbon negative, when at best it’s carbon neutral. There is a lot of muddled thinking, incorrect use of language and mis-information from those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, i.e. a fossil fuel based economy. But the science is clear and unambiguous, and guilty of only one mis-statement: it has historically understated the consequences of the consequences of our failure to change. That, thankfully was corrected in the latest IPCC report. It’s frightening reading.

      • “The science” says nothing. Science is not a person, or even an entity, it is a philosophical framework of inquiry about the natural world. Referring to “the science” as some sort of mystical unquestionable authority is ironically both anti-scientific, and totally useless for solving problems.

        To correctly rephrase your statement: “atmospheric CO2 data, when correlated with measurements of changes of climate levels and extreme weather events suggest that it would be in humanity’s best interests to reduce our CO2 emissions to levels that achieve a net negative of CO2 flow rate out of the atmosphere in an expeditious fashion.”

        Climate absolutism has created far more problems than it solves. A much more productive mental framework is simply the accurate and honest accounting of the lifecycle carbon and energy footprints of the goods and methods of transportation that impact daily life.

        This article gives an excellent example: electric air taxis are, despite zero direct carbon emissions, an incredibly energy intensive mode of transportation that require massive and emissions intensive infrastructure creation up front. Environmentally, they are a ecological disaster once lifecycle costs are factored in, however they do satisfy the absolutist criteria of “zero carbon emissions,” which is the buzzwords that attract investors. Compared to the un-sexy, mundane, and boring use of biofuels which is simply using the existing infrastructure (and vehicles!) but providing a nearly carbon-neutral fuel source. They fail the absolutist criterion miserably, but thanks to vastly lower lifecyle impacts are much better for the environment.

        • @Wuffles

          You took the words out of my mouth – the invocation of ‘science’ as neutral but absolute authority is brandished threatingly by the political élites to impose their preferred programs of more of the same but somehow better, a wet dream of control

          Along with the use of the word ‘we’ as in ‘we must do this or that’ – who are these ‘we’ ? if not in fact ‘you’, all of you

          It is preferable to understand that different parts of the world may perceive the climate changes through different sets of social economic structures and conditions, and that some smaller part of the world may be wholly responsible for the apparent negativities and the larger not

          • Bryce, you hit on a favourite tactic of eco-alarmists and other Marxism-founded types: claiming to speak for everyone (sing ‘we’).

            They are arrogant people.

      • @ TB
        I’m not missing the point at all.
        The article above is about the separation of “corn from chaff” in the many “green fad” offerings when it comes to alternative aviation tech. Such separation can be viewed entirely separately from the perceived need for the “corn”.
        Apart from that, @ Wuffles makes some excellent points about the harm done by climate absolutism, and its misconceived notions about how science works. Climate change is a subtle and complicated problem, and will not be solved by absolutist propaganda and grand rhetoric.

      • A major problems is anti-human activists mis-using words.

        They define ‘science’ to be what supports their agenda, never mind the tens of thousands of scientists who disagree. That is consistent with the belief of persons who underlying beliefs are Marxist and its derivatives – words create reality.

        In contrast, objective people see that humans create and produce and collaborate. Even Malthus was realizing in old age that he had completely overlooked human creativity.

        Scratch a climate catastrophist and you’ll find a believer in population control and income redistribution (as publicly stated by a UN official).

        Aviation has been a tremendous benefit to human life, yet you attack it. Why?

      • Tim Beesley said on August 26, 2021
        “You’re missing one point. The science says that we have to stop emitting CO2. That’s fact, not hype.”

        Problem is the definition of ‘science’, which often is what suits the user of the word.

        The ‘scientists’ exposed by the leak of documents from the Climate Research Unit of East Anglia University:
        – tried to block questsioners from publication
        – tried to mislead people by presenting data in odd ways, such as in ‘Mike’s Nature Trick’
        – mis-represented analysis of climate history by incompetent analysis or worse (Keith Briffa’s strange selection of trees to represent Yamal)

        Basic science of tide gages and show that earth’s climate continues its slow warming trend since the end of a cool era circa 1750, the cool eara that drove Viking farmers out of southwest Greenland.

        CO2 feeds people, even Tim Beesley who shoots himself in the foot, warming is good for humans and our food sources. Why do climate catastrophists want to take affordable portable energy away from poor people?

    • “It’s about time that an earnest effort was made to expose the huge amount of fluff in the sustainable/green movement. Terms like “green”, “eco”, “sustainable”, “planet proof”, etc., are insufficiently defined/regulated, and they attract gullible hordes of hype followers who do not look critically beyond a glossy veneer on the surface.”

      Well said, but the rot is much deeper.

      The whole push comes from a negative view of humans that breeds notions of population control, fixed-pie economics, and drive-to-the-bottom ethics that come from denial of the effectiveness of the human mind for life. Marxism teaches such, fraudster Margaret Mead and fool Karl Malthus taught it (though he recognized late in life that he had omitted the impact of human creativity). The foundation is mysticism, in recent millennia coming from teachings of Plato’s bizarre two-worlds theory with its ‘priest’ notion that the real world can only be reached through years of devotion and study – hence the power elite that always arises from collectivism, hence the attitude of David Sleazuki that he shall not be questioned.

      Objective psychologist Michael Hurd explained attachment to mysticism as fear of the unknown, in contrast to what makes aviation – belief that things can be figured out by the human mind.

      • ” … attract gullible hordes of hype followers who do not look critically beyond a glossy veneer on the surface.”

        Where is the difference to any other political party/group?
        Just think about the lack of real substance in conservative communications?

  4. the “sustainable fuels” thing raises a lot of questions for me. For years I’ve read studies that the Ethanol mandate in US fuels actually is a big net carbon loser compared to just plain gasoline (i.e. the amount of carbon produced in the act farming the corn (which it self requires burning fuel), fermenting and distilling the ethanol and then produced when you burn the ethanol far exceeds the amount of carbon produced by just burning the equivalent amount of gasoline)

    what has changed in this equation? are we imagining some happy land where the corn is farmed using only corn ethanol for fuel, then fermented with a full, energy free carbon capture fermenter, distilled using reverse osmosis etc? because that is not reality.

    • bilbo:

      Concur, I don’t know what the trade off are on Ethanol overall. Does it just shift the pollution to a less populated region (cornbelt in US and what price in Brazil for sugar cane).

      That said, cities are cleaner because of Methanol and hugely better the MBTE was.

      It now has an industry behind it and they in turn have political leverage.

      Equally what is the real impact of electric cars with the requirement for mines for the battery materials and where the charging power comes from?

      Batteries fail so there is a replacement cycle as well.

      • MBTE and Ethanol really have nothing to do with eachother. banning lead in fuels happened long before the ethanol mandate.

        eliminating MBTE was a huge step in polution reduction and heavy metal poisoning, but the ethanol mandate is and always has been a backdoor subsidy for corn farmers.

        • Several nations have laws mandating or incentivizing ethanol (or biofuels). In the US it is mainly maize (though sugar beet is developing) in Australia it is wheat and Brazil sugar cane. Maize and wheat are not good energy crops though Sugar cane and beet work. It’s clear that the mandates solve a political problem by forcing the motorist(always guilty) to subsidise the farmer. It is not all bad and I think it’s worthwhile.
          1 It gives farmers a place to dump substandard crops rejected by food processors.
          2 It keeps farmers on the land producing excess food so that in event of a crop failure the crop can be converted to food. It’s important here to ensure that there are mechanisms to direct fuel crop production to food crop production quickly if needed. It’s important that it be limited whereby its mainly a price stabilisation scheme. It’s important it doesn’t sour trade relations but then growing GMO soy maize and converting it into poultry ultimately is the cause of trade friction between EU/US. It’s better than paying farmers to leave crop land fallow!

          Interestingly some of these crops can also be more efficiently converted to biogas (methane) from an energy point of view (maize, wheat) since they don’t require distillation. Biomethane can be converted to jet fuel.

          Also alcohols can be converted to jet fuels by similar kinds of zeolite catalysts as Mobil developed for MTG at 90% efficiency.

          The market for bioethanol automotive fuel is now huge and it wouldn’t surprise me that if hypothetically all motive vehicles switched to battery or fuel cell that it would fuel much of aviation.

          • Global Consumption of Jet fuel is 544 billion Litres/year.
            Global Production of Bioethanol is 144 billion litters/year.
            Billion = 10^9

            Ethanol can be converted to jet fuel at 90% efficiency so about 72 billion litres of jet fuel could be produced if that bioethanol became available for aviation. This is about 12% of global use.

            Technology to produce bioethanol is improving, Several new techniques of utilising lignocellulosic material such as wood chips and plant stalks. Reverse Osmosis to concentrate the alcohol to avoid the expense of distillation.

            So clearly there are options for SAF. Biomethane is another route and of course PtL.

          • William:

            You are mistaken on the Corn aspect. The US mandates mean that you need a committed source, Corn is grown specifically to feed the Ethanol plants.

            I follow one farmers U Tube and they split their corn feed into a domestic use and an Ethanol use and they have commitments for how much they feed the Ethanol plant.

            As a start it was a quick reaction and shift as Corn used an established system for feed-stock to Ethanol.

            Its just never been adjusted for the best feed stock.

            I believe some areas that did Sugar Beets to start with did the same but that was not nearly as big an industry as Ethanol and Sugar beets themselves were subsidized.

            It all mingles with politics and you don’t get rational decisions. Anyone who tries looses at the next election and they have not made a dent in what drives it.

          • Maize and wheat are not good energy crops though Sugar cane and beet work.”

            Whoa William.

            If corn (maize) is not a ‘good energy crop’ then the subsidizing of farmers is extra bad. Corn is a source of sugar, as are the well-known ‘sugar beets grown in southern AB, in ID, and in UT. (U&I was a well-known brand of sugar, competing with C&H from sugar cane. Corn syrup is a common form of sugar, readily available in stores. Question is yield from a plant, which you should elaborate on.)

          • @ Transworld. My understanding is that in order to obtain a subsidy for corn/maize for bioethanol production it must be a dedicated preregistered crop. That is for obvious reasons. However there is nothing to stop a farmer supplying surplus or substandard crop to a fermenter. He will simply not obtain a subsidy.

            @mKeith Sketchily. Energy crops are complicated. Sugar cane is cost effective because the the burning of the ‘wood’ bagasse powers the distillation and electricity production. Maize does not have this advantage. Wheat at first seems not so good until the value of the straw and silage is taken into account. Sugar beet has the advantage of a very concentrated sugar and produces twice the concentration of alcohol as sugar cane and this reduces distillation costs. The pulp is a good animal feed. The analysis is very complicated.

            Obviously the cost of fertiliser and tillage needs to be taken into account but also any by products.

        • Bilbo:

          “MBTE and Ethanol really have nothing to do with each other. banning lead in fuels happened long before the ethanol mandate.”

          You would be wrong on the specifics with Ethanol. Its also an Oxygenator like MBTE without the horrid side affects. We managed to be the first state to ban MBTE.

          So while Ethanol was touted as an alternative to foreigner oil along the liens of what Brazil did. Its core purpose at 10% in Northern locations (not sure how far South) is to assist in cleaner fuel burn.

          As an alternative energy source at the time it had some merit, no one wants to be held hostage on oil .

          I agree its outlived its purpose, they never shifted to the better sources for Ethanol and its got its own political inertia in the US Corn Belt that has nothign to do with clean energy.

    • Issue is, there is a sizeable lobby behind huge green projects (that aren’t green bottom line) that make their income, have their voters, feel responsible for lots of jobs.

      Even if they can understand what they are selling, promoting, doesn’t help the environment bottom line, they don’t want to understand.

      The subsidies authorized by worried populations & opportunistic politics are enormous and most welcome.

      • Exactly.
        Plus: naysayers are quickly tarred as climate denialists, and ignored. It’s an efficient self-sustaining bubble…which is generally the case in any system tbat involves money, power and an uninformed mass.

    • Is ethanol in gasoline anything more than an indirect subsidy for farmers?

      Interesting that someone somewhere convinced Chrysler Corporation to make vehicles for methanol-gasoline mix, system included a sensor to determine proportions in the fuel. (It is covered in service manuals for early 90s Caravans, that vehicle was sold overseas as well as in North America.) Apparently a 1996 Ford Taurus could use gasoline with some methanol, or of course some ethanol.

      Ethanol was traditionally made from edible plants, methanol from wood.

      • Addition of ethanol can increase octane rating of gasoline, though somewhat difficult to measure.

        It is lower price that some other octane-increasing additives.

        Climate catastrophists claim that it greatly reduces CO2 emissions, but they are talking of pure ethanol I understand.

        However, ethanol:
        – damages some traditional materials in engine fuel systems, including fibreglass fuel tanks common in boats
        – has very different energy density than gasoline, so you have to adjust when calculating economics.
        – is troublesome in high proportions, including with water in the fuel (ethanol absorbs water from the air, at high concentration the water separates from the ethanol). So don’t just pour your grandpa’s moonshine into your car. :-o)
        – does not have enough vapour pressure to start engines in cold temperatures when in high proportions


        Some people in this thread are confused about how to make ethanol – not yet proven feasible from trees, that is the traditional source of methanol (do not drink it!). Both are usually made from other than vegetation.

      • I think you’re forgetting the world in which it became more mandated. Oil prices were skyrocketing and the US wasn’t energy independent. This was not only a farm-ish subsidy, but it gave us an alternative to buy less oil, which rational or not was a priority at the time. Around the early 2000s all of the big 3 started making E85 engines, typically denoted by “flex fuel” badging. The Taurus wouldn’t live long enough to see both of its engine choices eventually become flex fuel compliant.

    • It also has farming support built into it. Making ethanol and from it other fuels can be done in many ways. Planting trees in billions gives other benefits as well, also having desert saltwater ponds growing algae gives good evaporation in the heat that falls as rain somewhere and you can mix what you grow or have fish/shrimp in the ponds nearby shuffling the waste water around and finally clean it. It is not easy but you have engineers, meteorologists and biologists to work the problems and solving several problems besides getting SAF’s.

    • The term “SAF” or “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” was carefully and sincerely chosen by the industries that allied themselves to create it. Unlike many other things it is no greenwash PR.

      The term “Sustainable” is meant to avoid the mistakes of the past, for instance EU subsidies for biodiesel that lead to Malaysian/Indonesian jungle that was home of the endangered orangutan being cleared so as to plant palm kernel plantation.

      SAF fuel is designed to
      1 Focus on waste material
      2 Not compete for land use with food crops
      3 Not lead to loss of wilderness or habitat.

      Hence SAF at this time is mainly waste oils. Another source developing will be biomethane from agricultural and municipal waste which can be converted to jet fuel via the commercially proven fisher tropsch or MTG process. Another process is the conversion of lignocellulosic material (eg wood chips/waste) to a sugar via application of acids (eg formic) and high temperature to produce sugars that convert to alcohol (such as ethanol) ie hydrolysis. The zeolite catalysts Mobil developed to produce gasoline from methanol (MTG) can also work with ethanol and make jet fuel. Also developing is genetically modified bacteria that do not require the lignocellulosic material to be pre-treated as much with heat and acid as hydrolysis.

      Bio-ethanol can have several sources:

      Sugar can is by farm the most effective crops producing 5 x more energy than it consumes to make because the stalks can be burned to both make electricity and drive the distillation process.

      Sugar Beet is also effective at about because it is easy to process, doesn’t need water (beets contain water), are easy to harvest, can be crop rotated and the pulp is useful animal fodder and I believe can also be burned.

      Ethanol from maize is the worst because at only about 1.2 energy gain it lacks the burnable stalks of the sugar can and the fodder potential or water of beat.

      The energy required to distil ethanol from maize is the issue. It is hoped that osmotic membranes will be able to concentrate the liquid to about 20% alcohol from whence tt can be distilled.

      Ethanol can be converted to jet fuel through zeolite catalysts.

      There are also certain oil seed crops that grow on marginal land and don’t require fertiliser inputs or compete with food.

      Fi9nally also PtL which is very efficient in land use and can even be done at sea. Airbus is involved with a Canadian project in Quebec to capture CO2 from factories to make Jet fuel but obviously can capture direct from air.

      • SAF = Silly Activists Folly

        ‘sustainable’ is a con job, based on the notion that humans are not creative and productive. The book ‘The Doomsday Myth’ chronicles many cases of forecast shortages that did not occur even in the face of government force.

        The problem is a negative view of humans.

        • How is using waste oil or biogas from agricultural and municipal waste to make jet fuel incompatible with that?

          • Incompatible with what?

            Gas from landfills is used to generate electricity locally, to liquid fuel is a huge step – at what cost?

            I doubt very much that there is substantial quantity of waste petroleum lubricating oil, there is a supposed diesel made from waste vegetable oil but I’d want purity and other characteristics to be right for diesel engines. From there to the lighter JetA turbine fuel is another leap of processing and quality I expect.

          • @Keth Sketchely,
            Just pointing out that you cornucopian beliefs aren’t always compatible with you criticism of ‘sustainable’ technologies.
            Some points:
            1 Lubricating Oils made from rapeseed are superior to those made from mineral oils. In fact the improvement in piston engine fuel efficiency due to lower friction is around 0.35% which has lead to suggestions that rape oil should not be used as a fuel but would be more effectively used as a lubricant. The advantages persist with hydraulic oils and they are sometimes mandated for earth moving machinery in sensitive forest areas.

            2 Biodiesel and Bio-Jet fuel are made via the transesterification of biological oils with an alcohol and a hydroxide. They are superior to mineral based jet fuels and diesels. This is because the molecular structure consists of mainly long linear chains the burn evenly and smoothly whereas mineral oils contain many large, closed, lumpy circular chains that tend to form soot. In diesels this leads to a conundrum where the diesel has difficulty being able to minimise particulates on the one hand and NOX on the other.

            In aircraft particulates help lead to the formation of contrails (also blamed for so called global warming.

            Of course from an energy point of view few plant based energy crop oils make poor sense as a fuel but there are large sources of waste oil.

            3 Synthetic Jet Fuel made via Fischer Tropsch route have even greater advantages and produce much less soot and can reduce contrails up to 70%. This would include PtL and syngas derived from biomethane. The other route for synthetic jet fuel is to take alcohol and convert it to Jet fuel in a zeolite catalysts similar to Mobil’s ZSM-5 catalyst.

            The cost of producing bioethanol is about $1.00/US Gallon. If far more abundant lignocellulosic material i.e. cellulosic ethanol is used the cost is nearly double (though is coming down).

            These fuels are not expensive or economically damaging if waste is utilised i.e. municipal and agricultural waste.

            Municipal garbage dumps taped for biomethane exploit perhaps 30% of the methane. The process of cleaning out the CO2 to make it suitable for injection into the natural gas network or use as a feedstock for fisher tropic technology is established tech. We know its expensive because even using natural gas is more expansive than oil at $20/barrel. (ie $0.01/kwhr)

            However if domestic, restaurant and food industry waste was properly separated there would be enormous amounts of energy in waste food etc. A medium loaf of stale bread could be turned into enough methane that 1/2 cup of jet fuel could be made.

            Butter, jam, potatoes peel, rotten fruit, cabbage leaves, etc all the better. In addition the CO2 can be captured and utilised.

            A single persons sewage is likely to make enough methane to boil 2 litres of water or make a family sized omelette. My first girl friends father was an ethnic German who recounted to me his 1938 university excursion to Frankfurt where the sewerage plant generated electricity by digesting the sewage in a large series of 5 tanks. that were sequentially tapped for gas. In Sydney sewage gas once powered engines that pumped the sewage.

            I rather believe the non linear absorption of CO2 theory and there is a great paper in whatsupwiththat.

            However over the last 150 years mankind increased CO2 concentration from 286ppm to 400ppm and I consider it prudent to start preparing to stop this explosive growth. When do you want to stop? 500ppm, 6000ppm (all happening soon) or reach 800ppm? While this may create a world of abundant plant life what if it doesn’t? We must be ready.

      • Lingo note:
        William is using the European word for corn: maize.

        In North America ‘maize’ is used to refer to the precursor of corn. Tribal people in the region of what is today southern Mexico selectively bred the plant to produce larger seed cobs and more than one per plant. Hybridization with another plant may have helped (plants do crossbreed without human help.)

        A great development that spread north as far as southern Manitoba in warmer climate than today, and around the world. Human creativity feeding people.

  5. All based on the scam that humans are causing runaway warming, which is not and cannot happen.

    The physics of greenhouse gas molecules limits the amount of temperature rise that CO2 can cause to a small amount, most of which has already been realized. That’s because of the ‘saturation’ effect of energy flow from overlap of absorption-emission spectra of carbon dioxide and the most common greenhouse gas, dihydrogen monoxide (water vapour).

    Reality is that the climate is not warming at an alarming rate, and sea level is not rising at a rate significantly faster than it has been since the end of the long cool period around 1750AD. (See for government databases.) Reality is that the climate is not warming at an alarming rate, and sea level is not rising at a rate significantly faster than it has been since the end of the long cool period around 1750AD. (See for government databases of sea level.) Records of surface temperatures are incomplete, contain unexplained ‘adjustments, and do not correct for local heating.’ I’ll instead go with traditional weather balloon thermometers and satellite sensors. I’ll instead go with traditional weather balloon thermometers and satellite sensors. Climate was stable during the Mycean, Roman, and Medieval warm periods (during which Vikings farmed southwest Greenland).

    Climate has always been changing, warm is better for us and our food source (which also benefits from more CO2). Hopefully Earth won’t slide into another ice age.

    Petroleum products and coal support health, in many ways from plastics to medicines. Fossil fuels provide affordable portable energy to poor people, in daily life and in case of disaster – why do activists want to take it away from them?

    • Of course there is no climate change! The US is NOT having record wildfires every summer. Nor record flooding. The record floods are world wide as are warmest ever summers. My bees had record low nectar last summer. We CAN fix this! It will take time.

      • Yes, the climate has changed many times, often due to vulcano action causing massive starvations. But those big swings effect many more people today, we do not tolerate a 30-40% quick loss of the human population anymore. Anyone visiting high altitudes like the Alps over decades can quickly see the changes. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere and its effect is pretty easy to calculate today in massive Finite Element models of land, atmosphere including the oceans and its currents. Just see leaders in scientific advanced countries be convinced by its scientists of mainly CO2 effects and waking up. (The US off and on…)

        • ‘claes’, the theories called ‘models’ that climate catastrophists use to coerce people fail miserably.

          Climate is not heating rapidly, temperatures at middle altitudes and water vapour are not trending as they predict, clouds are not modelled correctly, etc.

          IOW, FAIL

      • Error in knowledge acquisition:
        – failure to read history 1: high temperatures in 1930s)
        – failure to read history 2: the Medieval Warm Period when Vikings farmed southwest Greenland was warmer than today but climate was stable
        – logical FAIL, extrapolating uncommon events to a trend or rule (for example flooding in Calgary AB and Cedar Rapids IA were once-in-75-year event probabilities
        – failure to integrate (consider all factors, for example flood damage is greater if more people built on low ground, forest fire damage is greater if more people built among trees)
        – false claims (severed weather has not been increasing)

        As for your bees, that is a separate subject. In a drought summer, which does occur – in 1950s and 2000s in the Peace River area of NE BC for example, your bees may well find less pollen. But you should ensure that your hive housekeeping is good and you help the bees with some chemicals to kill mites and such which are always a problem.

      • @Keesje

        Maybe – we are all aware that there are many ‘problems’ for which many human solutions may be said to be worse than the natural problem

        A case in point can be taken from the current crisis – the one we may not discuss

        And many situations which some take to be problematic and others do not : it is not rational to take at face value the lectures/solutions of the élites to the problems they have made

        The one size fits all discource of CC is imperialist – remember the blood and tears sweated over the Amazon – ditto coming in Central Africa

        But is not only geographically imperialist, it can not accept any discussion or difference

        As such ‘CC’ can be said to be – a very big new market for the rich, facilitated with a very big stick for authoritarian and world wide centralised social control : hand in glove

        These are the very same people so stupid and so incapable of planning for ‘problems’ they themselves have created that they can not evacuate a few of their fellows from a foreign country….

      • @ keesje
        Denying any problem is a sub-optimal situation, but mis-characterizing a problem is perhaps an even greater issue in the current context.

        – For one thing, the definition of the problem has recently changed. The old narrative was that we were heading toward a tipping point, and that emissions reduction would be required to avoid that scenario. Increasingly, however, researchers are asserting that we’re now too late, and that we’ve already reached or passed a tipping point. This U-turn in opinion is apparently rooted in previous use of climate models that made inadequate allowance for higher-order / knock-on / regional effects.

        – If the problem is re-stated in this manner, then emissions reduction has absolutely no useful purpose: instead, one needs to do serious carbon capture and storage. However, such a radical change of direction does not sit well with ego-driven individuals who have staked their reputations on previous predictions and don’t relish the negative PR that would be associated with public backtracking.

        This is actually how science works on a daily basis — a big shock for outsiders who thought that scientists were infallible oracles. I’m not aware of a single branch of science that doesn’t regularly need to face a seismic shake-up.

    • @Keith Sketchley

      Once again, you’re trying to hijack a thread where the topic is sustainable aviation and/or electric aircraft, hydrogen powered aircraft (etc.).

      On June 4, 2019, I responded to a similar trolling comment of yours from the previous day and where I debunked the mistaken idea that the Greenhouse Effect is “saturated”. Interestingly, you didn’t respond.

      In case you don’t know, but you do appear to be functioning on the extreme left side of the Dunning Kruger scale on relevant knowledge in the field of climate change and global warming. In psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task vastly overestimate their ability. This trait causes a person to be incapable of processing new relevant information rationally. For example, no person can be an expert in everything; however, a person who is very good at one thing may jump to the conclusion that he or she is very knowledgeable about another field. In most cases, the person who falsely believes they are very knowledgeable about the given subject is not a competent researcher and may mistake cynicism for critical thinking.

      Now, as I wrote two years ago; the mistaken idea that the Greenhouse Effect is “saturated” — that adding more CO2 will have virtually no effect — is based on a simple misunderstanding of how the Greenhouse Effect works. What matters is the change in what happens at the top of the atmosphere, not what happens down near the surface. As we climb higher in the atmosphere the air gets thinner. There is less of all gases, including greenhouse gases. Eventually the air becomes thin enough that any heat radiated by the air can escape all the way to space. How much heat escapes to space from this altitude then depends on how cold the air is at that height. The colder the air, the less heat it radiates. If we add more greenhouse gases the air needs to be thinner before heat radiation is able to escape to space. Now, this can only happen higher in the atmosphere. Where it is colder. So the amount of heat escaping is reduced. By adding greenhouse gases, we force the radiation to space to come from higher, colder air, reducing the flow of radiation to space. And there is still a lot of scope for more greenhouse gases to push this higher and higher, into colder and colder air, restricting the rate of radiation to space even further.

      A Saturated Gassy Argument


      The simple physics explanations for the greenhouse effect that you find on the internet are often quite wrong. These well-meaning errors can promote confusion about whether humanity is truly causing global warming by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Some people have been arguing that simple physics shows there is already so much CO2 in the air that its effect on infrared radiation is “saturated”— meaning that adding more gas can make scarcely any difference in how much radiation gets through the atmosphere, since all the radiation is already blocked. And besides, isn’t water vapor already blocking all the infrared rays that CO2 ever would?

      The arguments do sound good, so good that in fact they helped to suppress research on the greenhouse effect for half a century. In 1900, shortly after Svante Arrhenius published his path-breaking argument that our use of fossil fuels will eventually warm the planet, another scientist, Knut Ångström, asked an assistant, Herr J. Koch, to do a simple experiment. He sent infrared radiation through a tube filled with carbon dioxide, containing somewhat less gas in total then would be found in a column of air reaching to the top of the atmosphere. That’s not much, since the concentration in air is only a few hundred parts per million. Herr Koch did his experiments in a 30 cm long tube, though 250 cm would have been closer to the right length to use to represent the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Herr Koch reported that when he cut the amount of gas in the tube by one-third, the amount of radiation that got through scarcely changed. The American meteorological community was alerted to Ångström’s result in a commentary appearing in the June, 1901 issue of Monthly Weather Review, which used the result to caution “geologists” against adhering to Arrhenius’ wild ideas.

      In sum, the way radiation is absorbed only matters if you want to calculate the exact degree of warming — adding carbon dioxide will make the greenhouse effect stronger regardless of saturation in the lower atmosphere. But in fact, the Earth’s atmosphere is not even close to being in a state of saturation. With the primitive techniques of his day, Ångström got a bad result, as explained in the Part II . Actually, it’s not clear that he would have appreciated the significance of his result even if he had gotten the correct answer for the way absorption varies with CO2 amount. From his writing, it’s a pretty good guess that he’d think a change of absorption of a percent or so upon doubling CO2 would be insignificant. In reality, that mere percent increase, when combined properly with the “thinning and cooling” argument, adds 4 Watts per square meter to the planets radiation balance for doubled CO2. That’s only about a percent of the solar energy absorbed by the Earth, but it’s a highly important percent to us! After all, a mere one percent change in the 280 Kelvin surface temperature of the Earth is 2.8 Kelvin (which is also 2.8 Celsius). And that’s without even taking into account the radiative forcing from all those amplifying feedbacks, like those due to water vapor and ice-albedo.

      In any event, modern measurements show that there is not nearly enough CO2 in the atmosphere to block most of the infrared radiation in the bands of the spectrum where the gas absorbs. That’s even the case for water vapor in places where the air is very dry. (When night falls in a desert, the temperature can quickly drop from warm to freezing. Radiation from the surface escapes directly into space unless there are clouds to block it.)

      So, if a skeptical friend hits you with the “saturation argument” against global warming, here’s all you need to say: (a) You’d still get an increase in greenhouse warming even if the atmosphere were saturated, because it’s the absorption in the thin upper atmosphere (which is unsaturated) that counts (b) It’s not even true that the atmosphere is actually saturated with respect to absorption by CO2, (c) Water vapor doesn’t overwhelm the effects of CO2 because there’s little water vapor in the high, cold regions from which infrared escapes, and at the low pressures there water vapor absorption is like a leaky sieve, which would let a lot more radiation through were it not for CO2, and (d) These issues were satisfactorily addressed by physicists 50 years ago, and the necessary physics is included in all climate models.

      Then you can heave a sigh, and wonder how much different the world would be today if these arguments were understood in the 1920’s, as they could well have been if anybody had thought it important enough to think through.

      • @OV-99

        For KS to comment on CC in the context of a post concerning ‘green tech’ is a hardly a hijack, an extra pilot perhaps

        It is possible to observe that human solutions, above all ‘obvious ! human solutions’, to human made problems may be of a complexity to allow dissension and debate

        The same politico-economic complex, class, and structure has – it may seem – created a problem that the very same propose ‘obviously’ to solve : this is the work of a mountebank

        It is advisable to be sceptical about the abilities of such, one way or another

        • @Gerrard White

          For KS to comment on CC in the context of a post concerning ‘green tech’ is a hardly a hijack, an extra pilot perhaps

          It’s not clear what you’re trying to say in your comment, but the fact of the matter is that KC is clearly spreading misinformation about climate change — while seemingly vastly overestimating his knowledge about atmospheric chemistry (i.e. Dunning-Kruger effect).

          Instead of discussing the Pros and Cons of the application of green technologies in aviation, KS is resorting to repeated trolling and manages to come up with a rambling, off topic, incoherent response in order to derail the thread.

          • @OV-99

            Please excuse me, it is quite clear that I am saying that KS is allowed, should be allowed, to comment on CC in a post concerning green tech

            You state that he is spreading ‘misinformation’ and should not be allowed to do so

            I am not certain as to how and why your statement is of necessity valid, is information, and KS’s statements of necessity invalid – so hence impermissable

            I have cast doubt on the rational & logical validity of statements on CC which spring from the class and structure of society that, by declaration and by definition, created the very problems that the very same structure and class propose to solve, without debate or dissension –

            This is not to deny that a problem has been percieved nor that there may or may not be solutions, nor that there are, in all parts of the world, very different ideas and information about the climate

          • @Gerrard White

            You came out of nowhere and continue the trolling started by Mr. Sketchley.

            I am not certain as to how and why your statement is of necessity valid, is information, and KS’s statements of necessity invalid – so hence impermissable

            Well, I explained how the Greenhouse Effect works and that the atmosphere isn’t even remotely saturated with CO2 (providing relevant links for more in depth explanations etc.), while Mr. Sketchley is peddling misinformation/disinformation somehow construing the mistaken idea that the Greenhouse Effect is “saturated”, that adding more CO2 will have virtually no effect is correct — a “conclusion” you seem to highly approve of.

            Again, the Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapour absorb most of the heat radiation leaving the Earth’s surface. Then their concentration determines how much heat escapes from the top of the atmosphere to space. It is the change in what happens at the top of the atmosphere that matters, not what happens down here near the surface as Mr. Sketchley seems to be believing.

          • @OV-99

            I see no reason to suppose or to be convinced that you are indisputably correct in your every assertion – so much so that you may accuse of those who fail to agree with you of being trolls, of ‘coming out of nowhere’, and to deny them expression

            You state the banal -We all come out of nowhere and there return

            Cat – Calling, censorship ing, those who do not agree with you is also un convincing – this is the procedure adopted by those serving the élites to enforce policy decisions and to stifle debate/opposition

          • @Gerrard White

            I see no reason to suppose or to be convinced that you are indisputably correct in your every assertion


            It’s typical of climate change deniers to misquote and exaggerate while being completely divorced from scientific reality.

            The one (off) topic in question that I’ve been responding to is the repeated [claim] by Mr. Sketchley that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will have virtually no effect on the Greenhouse Effect.

            – so much so that you may accuse of those who fail to agree with you of being trolls,


            Wouldn’t it be better to remain silent and be thought a troll than to keep on trolling and to remove all doubt?

            of ‘coming out of nowhere’,


            Yes, I didn’t engage in discussion with you — you did!

            and to deny them expression.

            Again, you’re distorting the truth.

            This is not my blog. I’ve not “denied” anyone “expression” or asked Leehamnews to censure anyone.

          • @OV-99

            Oops – please cool down – CC hot enough as is

    • You seem to not have understood the physics involved.
      Water vapor is a massive amplifier for greenhouse gas effects.
      (The “greenhouse” paradigm is rather misleading interpretation anyway as things turn much more around volume absorption than wavelength dependent energy blockage over an interface)

      Greenhouse gases increase temps.
      Higher temps allow more water vapor.
      water vapor ( evaporation, condensation ) is a massive energy transfer efector.

      • True but water vapour also causes plants to grow which helps cool those areas Water vapour causes rain which develops forest, water vapour causes certain kinds of cloud to form which can reflect radiation ((some clouds trap). Its complex. I’m aware of the arguments Gerrard mentions. Basically CO2 has a non linear absorption and has largely saturated so some claim 600ppm not a problem. I’m not comfortable tinkering with the planet. I also grew up with the so called oil shock and its a good reason to wean ourselves from dependence on it and the wars it helps cause. Not that its going to solve war. We’ll be invading each other for wind resources, solar resources, arable land , fisheries still and religion (good gave me the land) forever.

    • Mark:

      Great link, not alwyas a huge fan of RA but I have known writers like that who can hit it out of the ball park on occasion.

      He certainly did this one!

  6. The problem with hydrogen is this. No one will build a hydrogen driven steel smelter or a cement calcinator (both easier than a LH aircraft) unless there is a hydrogen supply and there is no point producing hydrogen unless there is a large renewable or nuclear supply to generate it. Neither exist.

    Electric cars are easy, they mostly don’t even use renewable electricity (maybe 10% for a recharge) unless you are in Iceland or Norway using hydro.

    Toyota has put in a herculean effort with its Mrai FCEV fuel cell vehicle setting up refueling stations but the folks that see electric vehicles as the panacea solution condemn it not realising that in a world in which solar and wind is 100% of energy instead of 5%-10% that hydrogen will be essential as a storage medium and is more direct than charging a BEV.

    Part of the reason for green washing is that the green movement has become so histrionic it is essential to showcase the efforts that have been put in to reduce emissions to deflect the unreasonable anger and demand for solutions that don’t work.

    • The “green movement” has morphed into a religious movement. Virginity and all.

      The interesting thing with China and its push towards E-vehicles is that it is much easier to change energy generation in scope of large scale industrial infrastructure than weaning people of their IC-vehicle investment.
      you can switch electric mobility clean by providing clean power sources.
      clean power sources alone will do nothing for fossil driven vehicles.

      solely profit oriented systems like the US are caught in a destructive circle there.

      • The CO2 emissions for US for road transport is 27% of total emissions. The split is 60:40 automobiles to tucks( inclusive of light trucks) A simple application of established hybrid drive technology to all of the automobiles and 1/2 of the light trucks would cut those emissions from 27% to probably 13%. Hybrid variant of vehicles seem to cost at most 30% more but pay back in fuel savings rapidly.

        I’m not picking on the US, I just happen to have the data. This very simple, achievable solution would save more emissions than air transport 4 times over at little inconvenience. It would reduce CO2 emissions More than having 50% renewable electricity. The Toyota Prius has been in production since 1997 (24 years) and its very easy now to simply add an electric motor and battery to a conventional drive train for any other maker.

        Yet this very affordable pathway is barely advancing?

        Perhaps hybrids are not pure enough (i.e. not pure electric) at the same time not traditional enough for those that aspire to a status symbol. Some car makers have established customers who want a tractional vehicle or who don’t know how to make cars anymore.

        Some kind of PR marketing and opinion making is needed.

        For me SAF is an easy solution that allows a progressive introduction. Starting with waste oils, progressing to biogas, then waste wood and finally PtL.

        • William:

          What is the true environmental impact though for Hybrid and the battery pack they have?

          Big surface mines vs a nice clean (yes I am exaggerating but…) oil well?

          Battery Pack wears out and has to be replaced at 100k or so (my last data)

          What is the Li Ion recycle look like?

          • The concerns you have about the cost of raw materials have
            already been dealt with by MIT

            You might compare cars that come with hybrid versus non hybrid versions Corolla, Camry etc. The hybrid version is 50%-60% of the non hybrid but if there is a specialised hybrid (Prius) its about 40%

            My point was this. Hybrids already represent a practical solution to halving emissions from automobiles which would reduce global emissions 10-15%) and light trucks yet very little progress has been made.

            If one mandated them many consumers would respond by increasing the size of their vehicle.

            The Battery Pack on a hybrid is quite small, little bigger than a normal starter battery and often replaces the starter battery and much smaller than an all electric vehicle. In most cases there is a bounty to ensure it is recovered upon scrapping. Somewhat unfortunately the mining industry is so efficient it can make the raw materials cheaper than they can be recycled and it may be necessary to add a tax or bounty to ensure they are property recycled. Toyota already do this.

  7. Everyone, listen up. I’ve been tolerant of some of the wilder posts because they are about the environment, which is what Bjorn’s post is about in the abstract. But the post is about technologies and whether they are truly environmentally friendly. Let’s get back to technology and not politics. Otherwise I will close comments.


    • @Scott Hamilton

      The point of many the comments, as of the post, is to arrive at a means to distinguish politically correct or gvmt program/propoganda green initiatives, and those which appear to have genuine technical promise

      Given the confused and conflicted arguments over how and what to do, one fairly reliable method of distinction between the parasitic political and the genuine is to follow the money

      But CC as has the bug has so confused the political and the technical as to make distinctions difficult – and a few commentors resort to assertive statements in an attempt to claim authority and belittle others

      Discussion of CC is fueled by heavy invective and is very unclean ungreen

      • We all, on both sides, need to a/ stay civil b/ stay 75% on topic c/ avoid labels, rhetoric, ad hominem. Apart from creating problems for Leeham it makes for a bad useless threads no one reads. I must admit that prior to the great shuttering I joined a free for all thread on the LA times that was 16,000 posts long. 90% of the posts were puerile but a tiny percentage were absolute gems of information that would have been moderated out today.

  8. And then there’s this — a nice illustration of what the article above is discussing:

    “Iron-Air Batteries Could Be The Breakthrough Energy Markets Are Waiting For”

    “A group of venture capitalists and investors including Bill Gates, Temasek (Singapore’s state holding company), Macquarie (the Australian infrastructure investor) and steel group ArcelorMittal have joined MIT engineers to finance a company, Form Energy, that claims that its iron-air battery can deliver electricity for 100 hours at one-tenth the cost of lithium-ion batteries.”

    Iron-Air batteries have known drawbacks/inefficiencies. The referenced start-up may, indeed, have solved these problems…or it may just have a persuasive, sweet-talking CTO.
    Relevance to aviation: iron-air batteries have about 2-3 times the energy density of current Li-based batteries.

    • Battery energy density, re charge time break-throughs have been around the corner for the last 25 years.

      Reality still is, we see a few percent improvement per year. Despite billions being invested by very rich, large company’s and R&D entities.

      Connecting big names, brands to game changing innitiatives seems common practice. See the LOI some airlines signed in recent years. Free, riskless PR image boosting..

      • keesje:

        Have to agree, reminds me of Open Rotor! (forgive me Scott)

        For batteries sans a change in the laws of physics there is no magic Elixir .

        Gains here and there yes, but not the home run so many promise.

  9. The cynicism towards eVTOL is unwarranted. This cynicism I think is cultural and similar to the gadget phobic sarcasm I noticed in Europe that helped ensure Asia now makes the worlds cellphones, TV electronics etc.

    EVTOL will create its own new market not covered by helicopters or aircaft. It will work very well with very fast trains and airports.

    I also suspect that after Lilium has its 7 seater in operation we may see much larger versions, maybe 19 seats? Incidentally Lilium defines itself as being in the space of “regional air mobility” ie 200km between towns rather than “urban air mobility” . It’s fairly obvious that airports just take up too much space.

    • The only cynicism is directed at the fact that it’s being marketed as “green” or “sustainable”, which is obviously farsical. Just cut the greenwashing and call it what is it: an electric pseudo-helicopter toy for a niche population. Somewhat like an aviation version of a stretched limo.

      • William:

        VTOL is a solution in search of a problem.

        And like most of those, we hope they fail as they cause far more problems than they solve (see the Drones issue)

        They are a huge cost and impact that is detrimental to the environment that we can hope fails soon.

        They are the opposite of green. More like someone buying one of those Class 8 Tractor Trailers that have a pickup bed on them (US phenomena) probably worse.

  10. My assessment of useful and non useful technologies. I will try and keep it relevant to aviation but keep in mind zero emissions flight will need to part of a eco system.

    1 Hybrid Vehicles. Useful and Affordable.
    2 Battery Vehicles. BEV. Useful but not yet affordable.
    3 Fuel Cell Vehicles. FCEV Useful when hydrogen economy. Seem affordable.
    4 Hydrogen economy: Essential for all other.
    4 Electrolysis: Essential.
    5 Offshore floating wind farms: probably essential else nuclear.
    6 Hydrogen based steal making: Useful
    7 hydrogen based cement making. Useful.
    8 Utility scale batteries, likely essential.
    9 Fuel Cell Electricity or 70% efficient combined cycle gas turbines. Likely essential even with utility scale batteries to work in hydrogen economy,
    10 PtL Power to Liquids. Essential to export energy and for long range aviation.
    11 DAC direct air capture of CO2, likely essential both to enable PtL and for geological sequestration
    12 Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage adjunct to PtL.
    13 Thermochemical solar water splitting. Useful.
    13 Electric fixed wing aircraft. Not very useful.
    14 eVTOL likely usefull.

    • William:

      One of my issues with anything high tech is the hidden costs.

      Something is going to fail. You then have to hope their is even a tech who understands it, they are available (weeks and months at times) and they don’t screw it up.

      I worked in light industrial buildings. One building got those whiz bang European Low Loss header boilers. No one ever got them to work right. The factory tech was hit and run.

      Every piece of high tech equipment was like that. Either no tech, you had to fly a tech in (10k a visit minimum) none of it was tuned to deliver its so called benefits.

      One would not meet the temp spread spec, I had to turn off the whiz bang energy savings part so I could tune it to meet that spec.

      When I recommended equipment replacement, I went with lowest tech simple I could get. It was reasonably efficient and any decent tech could get it to run.

      And equipment that is not running is a crisis in a building. The cots for high tech were not there as you needed a factory tech to tune it and keep it working right.

      In one case they went to a high tech boiler system, in order to ensure one of them kept running we had to put in 3.

      The high tech low loss boilers they put in 4. Any other boiler system I just needed two to ensure heat.

      Back in the 70s when emissions equipment was put on cars, fuel mileage dropped hugely. So, it was cleaner, we burned a lot more fuel.

      They finally went to fuel injection and solved that, but it also was higher tech and your repair costs went up when it did fail.

      I am not saying don’t try, but keep in mind that you have to look at it as a package and a high tech system that is not performing optimal is no better than a lower tech system that is working at its rated efficiency.

      Cars are vastly easier than building/factory/industrial plant systems as they are a closed system that can be tuned at the factory and stay that way (in fact the emissions readouts were often 50-75% better than spec, ergo, they wanted to ensure that they never had a violation no matter a shift in sensor quality)

      Tech work is looked down on. I finally got respect because my controls went electronics and I carried a laptop to tune them. I was every bit whiz bang on tuning a pneumatic system, no laptop, no respect.

      So we also lack people who go into tech work because its looked down on.

      My brother had to wait months to get a fan replaced in his truck. Yes bad support, hope to correct but those are some of the downsides.

      • All due to lack of leadership, Transworld.

        Operational excellence is rare.

        Jumping into things without thinking through – integrating all factors, is common. Yet pontificators herein want Boeing to leap in response to competition instead of being thoughtfully original. Yah, talk is cheap when you own money is not at risk.

  11. Those watching CNBC’s “Squawk” program on Aug. 27 (yesterday) will have seen a very interesting discussion of the ESG hype (ESG = Environment, Social and Governance) — which shows interesting parallels to the greenwashing hype referenced in the article above. The general point was that ESG progams / investment products (such as special ESG ETFs) do absolutely nothing to produce any substantive advancement of the ESG cause; rather, they are subscribed to by people who “want to feel good about their choices”…and who are willing to pay a small premium for that “feel good” element. And, of course, in any situation in which people are willing to pay a premium, you can expect circling sharks who are willing to exploit them.

    A direct analogy can be made to voluntary CO2 compensation premiums, which are offered by some airlines in order to give customers a “feel good” option to (symbolically) offset the emissions of their flights. Some people will pay so as to assuage a sense of guilt that they might have, others will pay — and talk loudly about it — so as to “show others the righteous path”. The paid premiums are supposedly being used to foster sustainable forestry programs in Central America — but does anyone actually check that, and perform an effectiveness audit?

    There are many useful programs aimed at providing more environmentally friendly transport. But there’s also a lot of greenwashing hot air. As long as interest rates are zero and people are looking for alternative ways to put their money to work, one can expect a whole scala of scams.

  12. “people who “want to feel good about their choices””. It is worth having a read of evolutionary psychologist Johnathan Haids “The righteous Mind”. He very effectively makes the case that humans are moralising creatures (rather than reasoning). Once you realise this you can see why people are often not rational and why “good people become divide” the subtitle of the book.

    According to Moral Foundations Theory, differences in people’s moral concerns can be described in terms of five moral foundations:

    1 Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm.
    2cFairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating.
    3 Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal.
    4 Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion.
    5 Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation.

    As religion breaks down the sanctity purity foundation can drift into organic food, environmentalism. I myself found found myself buying organic for this reason.

    So there may be good reason for environmentalism, I think so, but in some people can be driven by moral feelings than rational thoughts and this can hijack rational action or discussion.

  13. Of general interest to this article, and as a supplement to @William’s list of useful/less-useful technologies, is tidal turbine technology. It can generate power without the drawbacks of wind turbines (“landscape pollution” / noise / bird casualties / increasing lack of suitable locations / windstill days). There are many areas of the world in which powerful tidal currents can be exploited.

    “The ‘world’s most powerful tidal turbine’ starts to export power to the grid”

  14. The formal term for tidal power is “MCT”. “Marine Current Technology.” Extraordinary about MCT is that it seems to have a capacity factor of 60% compared to 25% for solar (due to night and clouds) and wind 35% (varies). Nuclear and gas Turbine is about 92%. Even more extraordinary is that MCT output is completely predicable in advance. There would be only a few hours per day that there was no power at all because the current was below turbine cut out speed.

    Noteworthy is that this tidal power system is to be connected to an electrolyser. Bravo because renewable energy, which is non dispatchable, has been “hitching a ride” without energy storage and its time the true costs are given. This easily doubles costs.

    Renewable energy doesn’t work without energy storage and when the costs are considered the cost of renewable energy easily doubles or more. Energy storage must be accepted when quoting costs.

    In terms of aviation the a hydrogen infrastructure is necessary.
    1 Will allow industries to decarbonise.
    2 Will allow CO2 to be captured in industry (eg cement & aluminium plants, breweries etc) where it can be converted to hydrocarbons.
    3 Will allow flight with hydrogen either gaseous hydrogen with fuel cell or cryogenic hydrogen with gas turbine.

    I note that nuclear electricity in the US is at $3c/KW.Hr and that this is a fraction of the costs of renewables when storage is considered.

    Unfortunately the US EIA Energy Information Agency has taken to quoting estimated costs for “advanced nuclear” at ridiculously high rate.

    • William:

      I want to correct the Clean Energy aspect, it in fact has its version of a storage system, its called the existing electrical grid.

      Ergo, you have lots of excess power when the Sun is up (or the wind is blowing) and when it drops or quits, the grid takes over. Clean energy cost should include that aspect and pay into the grid as its a duplicate and battles are fought over how much free clean energy gets for it.

      As for nuclear, no one has ever cleaned up nuclear waste. Its stored someplace and has thousands of years of half life.

      Many plants store the spent rods on site because there is no place to dispose of them. One in California (shutdown) on the coast is still buried on site.

      We have seen Chernobyl , Fukushima and Three Mile Island.

      How do you factor costs for something that is lethal for thousands of years and someone else has to take care of (or be irradiated by it when it gets lost in time?)

      Equally Nuclear needs lots of water and that is the last place you want a reactor sited.

      • I think you need to be cautious of talking down nuclear so much. The argument you’re making is similar to most others of waiting for the perfect to actually do something. If we agree carbon emissions are the gravest threat, then we do what minimizes those and then move to the next step of dealing with the nuclear waste issue. We will always end up creating the “next” problem to solve, but if imperfect solutions start us on a path why not take them?

        • There’s also a purely logical way of looking at this:
          If you have the *certainty* of disaster A (runaway climate change), but only the *possibility* of disaster B (nuclear accidents), then which is the more logical choice?

        • The claim that the nuclear waste issue hasn’t got a solution is not really true. Methods of dealing with it have been developed and are in place. Admittedly the method is letting the waste cool down for 30 years, vitrifying it into glass or synthetic rock, encasing in titanium or stainless steal and putting that in concrete and burying in a deep repository. A certain amount of waste reprocessing would reduce that but the system essentially works.

          Unfortunately the nuclear industry did go down the pathway of essentially scaling up nuclear reactors by a factor of 50 that were developed for submarines rather than develop a robust technology and fuel system suitable for commercial use. Key to this were reactors that used fuel cycles built for reprocessing on a large scale and the development of transmutation yo destroy both transuranic and fission products.

          Unfortunatky the next phase in reactor development is barely active.

          • There ins’t all that much commonality between
            mil and civil reactors.
            Start with fuel enrichment levels. …

            There is a path to getting rid of wastes in a synergetic manner. Transmutation. i.e. iradiate with an external source and trigger all possible fission reactions till the stuff is “fision dead”. this is also producing energy.

            The Antinuclear movement is highly dependent on there being no solution to waste processing.
            Thus politically research is blocked for transmutation.

          • @ Uwe
            To generalize the statement in your final paragraph: once the environmental movement ordains that a certain path is to be followed, then any discussion of any alternative path is usually suppressed and/or villified with disturbing vigor. Coupled with the fact that most politicians and CEOs have a frighteningly poor knowledge of science, and will do almost anything to maintain public favor, you get a perfect storm whereby a whole herd heads blindly over a cliff edge.

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