Plan for 'clean' aviation fuel made from mustard plants

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·2-min read
Madrid, San Sebastián de los Reyes pasture yellow flowers of Brassica carinata
Planes could fly using fuel grown from oil seed crops based on a type of mustard plant.

Planes could fly using "clean" fuel grown from oil seed crops based on a type of mustard plant, according to University of Georgia scientists. 

Switching to the new sustainable fuel could cut emissions from flying by 68%, says University of Georgia scientist Puneet Dwivedi.

The airline industry emits 2.5% of all carbon dioxide emissions nationwide and is responsible for 3.5% of global warming. 

Without action, the airline industry could consume up to 22% of the global carbon budget by 2050

Watch: Which countries release the most CO2?

Diwedi said: "If we can secure feedstock supply and provide suitable economic incentives along the supply chain, we could potentially produce carinata-based sustainable aviation fuel in the southern United States."

The oil would be obtained from Brassica carinata, a non-edible oilseed crop. 

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Researchers spent the past four years investigating how to grow carinata in the US south-east, exploring questions related to genetics and best practices for the highest crop and oil yield. 

Diwedi said: "In the South, we can grow carinata as a winter crop because our winters are not as severe compared to other regions of the country.

"Since carinata is grown in the 'off' season it does not compete with other food crops, and it does not trigger food versus fuel issues. Additionally, growing carinata provides all the cover-crop benefits related to water quality, soil health, biodiversity and pollination."

Other plans to make "clean" aviation fuel involve making aviation fuel from carbon produced from the air by "carbon capture" technologies, which are currently being trialled in plants around the world.

Read more: A 1988 warning about climate change was mostly right

Some of these technologies can capture CO2 directly from the air with up to 97% efficiency, a study found earlier this year. 

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and ETH Zurich investigated different technologies to remove CO2 directly from the air. 

Carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere and then either buried or used in carbon-based fuels. 

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The researchers cautioned that such technology wouldn't remove the need to cut carbon emissions, but would instead work alongside carbon reduction to help countries hit their climate goals. 

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