Air New Zealand Plane Flown On Second Generation Biofuel

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The search for an environmentally friendly fuel for airplanes took a leap forward today with the world’s first flight powered by a second-generation biofuel, derived from plants that do not compete with food crops.

An Air New Zealand jumbo jet left Auckland just before midnight GMT with a 50-50 mix of jet fuel and oil from jatropha trees in one of its four engines. The two-hour test flight, which took the Boeing 747 over the Hauraki Gulf, showed that the jatropha biofuel was suitable for use in airplanes without the need for any modifications of the engines. It forms part of the airline’s plan to source 10% of its fuel from sustainable sources by 2013.

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Jatropha Plantations In India

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Jatropha Debate - Managed Plantations vs. Contract Farming

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Oil reserves are diminishing and the price per barrel is rising. The added cost, the looming depletion, and the impact on the environment are all gaining global attention. From federal government policies to individual lifestyle changes, people are aware of the need to manage our non-renewable energy sources and find affordable, renewable, and environmentally friendly energy solutions.

Enter Jatropha. This small shrub-like plant may be the answer. It is a hardy plant and its seeds produce more oil than the same amount of soybeans or corn, and the oil does not need extensive or pricy processing to make it into biodiesel. And, its seeds are toxic to animals and humans which means that fueling a car will not leave a family hungry.

So, if Jatropha is such an ideal alternative source for energy, why are Indian farmers not aggressively planting Jatropha as contract farmers? Bioenergy Plantations Pte Ltd wanted to uncover the reasons as part of its research into the viability of growing Jatropha for biodiesel. It found two key reasons that farmers chose other plants over Jatropha.

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Everything you want to know about Jatropha

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Jatropha is a scrub plant widely spread in South-America, Asia and Africa, which grows under comparatively dry conditions (250-1200 mm precipitation p.a.) and on poor soil. Jatropha nuts are toxic, which makes it known in rural areas as a hedge-plant that protects fields against animal predators.

For the same reason Jatropha is not cultivated as a food crop. Jatropha actually qualifies as an energy source in developing countries, because there is no competition with local food markets.

The Jatropha curcas L. variety has been tested as an energy source in a number of development projects and research programs since the early nineties, and it has shown very positive results.

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