Hybrid Jet Travel? Meet Boeing’s Sugar Volt

December 15, 2012

26 Responses to “Hybrid Jet Travel? Meet Boeing’s Sugar Volt”

  1. rayduray Says:

    We are one crazy species. Instead of having a national program to promote “Victory Gardens” we’re going to bankrupt the entire planet to harvest the minerals and materials necessary so that we can travel from New York to Paris for lunch and on to Dubai for dinner. Are we nuts?

    In the midst of World War II the Roosevelt Administration asked the public at large to grow their own food. It was an outstanding effort. I’ve read that the amount of calories produced per unit of fuel was about 2,000 calories of food for one calorie of rationed gasoline expended. I’m singing the praises of spades, shovels, hoes and mules here folks.

    Fast forward to today. Now we expend 10 calories of petroleum for one calorie of food. Sustainable? Oh hell no. But we’ll ruin America’s aquifers as we madly go about extracting tight oil and gas from shale formations. Nuts.

    So what are these new electric jets to be used for? Perhaps they will take the sockeye salmon harvested from Bristol Bay before we ruin that with mining madness in the headwaters to send the sockeye to China where the pin bones can be picked out of the fillets before the salmon ends up in display cases at Safeway in L.A.? Is this sane? This is what we are doing with the B-747 freight jet fleet today. It’s madness, of course. But it is “economic”.

    I totally reject the direction this Boeing R&D nightmare is leading the species on with its suicidal and mindless technological tomfoolery. We’d be far better off as a species putting our best minds to work on how to create sustainable food forests that everyone can love and tend to. Two examples follow:


    • MorinMoss Says:

      I support Boeing’s R&D effort in this and fully expect that will lead to some breakthrough technology – at some point.

      But there are plenty of worthwhile approaches, some low-tech, that need to be investigated and many folks are working on them.

      One of the problems is the constant harping of the Nuts Who Say Nay about how the only answer is more coal, more oil, more gas.

      We can’t totally turn our backs on technology – it gave us most of what we have today and, even if we did, the developing nations have been dreaming for a long time of the life we take for granted and would simply forge ahead if we abandoned it.

      • rayduray Says:

        Re: “I support Boeing’s R&D effort in this and fully expect that will lead to some breakthrough technology – at some point.”

        Sometimes ideas are so preposterous that you simply have to ridicule them.

        This Boeing electric motor idea for one.

        Do you have any idea about the energy density per pound of Jet Fuel versus the most advanced batteries available in the labs today?

        It is one the order of 100:1 in terms of power available per pound.

        So this promotional/propaganda video is basically nonsense. It’s got that in common with the nonsense that got spouted a few years ago about the “hydrogen economy”. That was a ruse to cripple the alternative energy industry.

        I haven’t completely sorted out what sort of a scam Boeing is running with this silly video. But the presentation is certainly what we used to call in the computer industry “vaporware”. It was all CGI, all animation. All fantasy. It did not bear on reality.

        The only possibly realistic advance I could see in the video was the rather clever triangulation strut that relieved two of the key stress issues on modern jets, that of the attachment of the engine to the wing, and of the wing to the fuselage. However, I’m skeptical about what that strut would do to the laminar flow over the main wing. Which is why we don’t see this solution in reality yet, eh? πŸ™‚

        To reiterate my main argument, we need to re-educate the American public (in particular) about what provides satisfaction in life. Living in a food forest is pretty damn cool. Having tea and sex with your trophy prostitutes/wives in a private jet flying to your tax haven from your seventh tax-deductible trophy home ought to be regarded as too sinful/shallow/superficial and wasteful to be even considered sane.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          I’m well aware of just how energy-dense carbon-chain fuels are and how pathetically puny batteries are by comparison.

          But that will, should and must change and it’s hard to know from where the breakthroughs might come.

          Recall that the US Military has a perfectly mad plan of nuke-powered aircraft.

          That did NOT lead, as they hoped, to flying reactors but it did set the stage for MSRs.

    • jimbills Says:

      The video says the plane might be ready in the 2030-2050 time frame. It’s a technology where they don’t have a working prototype (the video calls it their ‘one potentially viable’ electric option), that won’t be ready for 20 years in the best case, and that theoretically will still require 30% of fuel. Keeping in mind that it takes many years to turn over transport fleets already in use (even if this came about there wouldn’t be rapid replacement) – so we’d really be talking about 2050 before it theoretically had any impact. The commercial airline industry will be dead long before then – fuel costs are already crippling it, and we’re still way below what they will be in just a few years.

      I agree about the food forests, of course, but as for mass transport – electric and high efficiency rail is really the best option. But this is Boeing – they’ll focus on what they do and what will make them look good to their shareholders. On the national scale, we should be focusing on rail, but we are still locked into the mindset that it’s a step backwards (not realizing our only steps can be backwards).

      • rayduray Says:

        Thanks Jim,

        Regarding the distant future of air transport, I think people have no idea how extreme the carbon footprint air travel has. It’s atrociously wasteful.

        • rayduray Says:

          Oops, edit:

          “how extreme the carbon footprint…. IS.”

        • jimbills Says:

          I agree on that, too, of course. I just think it’ll be one of the first things to go. It’ll easily get priced out of the market for mass transport in the near term, and the airline industries are already only hanging on by a fingernail. We’ll still have planes in the air – there will just be a lot fewer of them (one of the good things about peak oil, ha ha).

          • rayduray Says:

            Here’s one of the first handy guides I came across on the carbon footprint of various modes of transport:


            If others have better info I’d be interested in building a bookmark file on this topic. Thanks! πŸ™‚

            My basic notion is that we need to come to our senses about how extremely wasteful our suburban sprawl and extravagant air travel are in terms of destroying the future. This isn’t going to be an easy sell to fat, dumb and happy American consumers. But it is crucial as far as I’ve learned.

            James Howard Kunstler is a good teacher on the absurdity of the American suburban development concept since WW II. We based an entire society on cheap, squanderable energy waste with the atmosphere considered an open sewer. We were nuts.


          • jimbills Says:

            Uh huh. It’ll happen. We just need to get the sheet kicked out of us first. We’ll hold on as long as we can, until we can’t.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          I read Monbiot’s Heat back in 2007, where he argues that a 90% cut by 2030 to stave off a 2 degC rise.

          As an aside, he was anti-nuke back then but is now very much in favor.

          I believe that air travel was the one area where he conceded defeat – that he couldn’t see a way for humanity to fly as many miles as it does now while achieving a 90% cut in CO2 emissions.

  2. petersjazz Says:

    We all know what is needed to lower emissions. Higher price on fuel. USA will need that money paying back on loans. Higher price on fuel and electricity, like in Europe, will do a great job. In Europe 1 liter gasoline is about 2 dollars and people need to take that into account. Remember USA has almost four time as much CO2 emissions as Sweden and China per capita, that needs to be more balanced.

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “We all know what is needed to lower emissions.”

      I’d phrase it differently. We need to stop squnadering the planet with all of the idiotically wasteful behaviors we engage in. The mindlessness of America is particularly galling in this regard.

      There is a quote that should shock all decent people into a state of heightened alarm about our species: “…Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale.”


      I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the insanity and grossly negligent stupidity of the bulk of humanity. We are ruining this planet at an alarming rate.

      I’m reminded of the law of holes. If you are in one, the first thing to do is to stop digging. This new “Sugar Volt” initiative seems perfectly mad to me. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, “what kind of FRESH HOLE is this?”

      • andrewfez Says:

        Yeah, I was at Rite Aid (drugstore) the other day, and was looking at some of the junk they try to sell you by placing it by the wait line for the cashier. There was a Snuggie (a blanket with holes in it for one’s arms) that lights up (embedded with multiple LEDs), little ball shaped vials of approx. 120ml, by my eye, that held flavored sugar water, and had a picture of Spider Man on their labels, individual Pringles containers that had something like 4 times less chips than the regular sized containers, etc…

        Then there is the OTC cold remedy aisle: There are a hand full of pharmacologic entities on the market to cover the symptoms of a cold, but there are thousands and thousands of different ways to package combinations of that small handful of drugs. Everything you see in that aisle is made of:

        pain relief/fever med: acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, flurbuprofen (rarely)

        antihistimine: loratidine, fexofenidine, cetirizine, chorpheniramine,
        brompheniramine, clemastine furmerate, doxylamine, diphenhydramine, and maybe something else that’s rarely used.

        decongestant: phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine

        decongestant topical: oxymetazoline

        cough suppressant: dextromethorphan

        There’s other entities for eye related stuff, but for the most part, everything you can get for cough and cold, allergies, etc. has some combo of that hand-full of junk in it. I’m probably butchering some of those names too.

        Countless studies have shown that giving those meds to small children (0 to about 6 or so) has little clinical efficacy and only creates drug related side effects (cognitive changes, etc. (in the case of dextromethorphan there is a link between its use and acute respiratory failure in children under 6)). The only two things that are safe and effective for little kids are the two antifever drugs, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Yet still mothers come in and purchase all those combo meds for their sick kids, driven by the idea that they can have some control over their situation, secondary to both poor logic (‘if it works for adults, it must work equally well for children’) and advertisement related indoctrination. Heck even doctors recommend the junk, just as a way of coddling to the delusion that these things are clinically effective for the said age group, so that they can be perceived as being ‘helpful’ and worthy of the 100 dollar office visit fee.

        Again the end result is unnecessary consumption (as it is with the over prescribing of antibiotics, for similar reasons of creating perception of helpfulness in the face of demand for it).

      • andrewfez Says:

        What do you think about the idea of reducing freeway/highway speed limits back down to 55mph, Ray?

        Wasn’t there something the Rocky Mtn guys published that said tractor-trailer truck efficiency hasn’t changed much since the 90’s?

        • rayduray Says:

          Re: “What do you think about the idea of reducing freeway/highway speed limits back down to 55mph, Ray?”

          It won’t work in America. We’ve already seen the seething resentment from the machismo crowd.

          Far better to force the rationalization of the fleet via rigid CAFE standards and a campaign against the wastefulness of the SUV lifestyle.

          Furthermore, I’d love to see, but do not expect our society to cease to subsidize the automobile industry so extravagantly while allowing alternatives like honoring of backyard gardening, bike riding, walking, etc. to be portrayed by the waste industries as too mundane for the consumer.

          If I were king, any marketing or advertising promoting waste would be immediately followed by a public service announcement about consumerism being the main cause that our species is killing the planet and destroying our chances to survive into the 22nd Century.

          If I were king, I’d create an urban renaissance in the U.S. so that people could walk to their neighborhood markets. Could bike to their parks. And the country would be reserved for intense agriculture of healthy foods, with greenbelts throughout. And traffic relegated to congestion-tax strangled corridors with intense carbon taxes on anyone idiotic enough to feel the need for driving a three ton behemoth to the soccer field or the mall.

          Oh, wait a minute, sorry. I was daydreaming. πŸ™‚

          • andrewfez Says:

            Ha, ha – yeah – those ideas are good too! I was think more about the technical aspect of the idea: It was my understanding, though i haven’t actually seen the calculations, that there was a noticeable energy use reduction signal back in the 70’s when the speed limits went down to 55mph. But of course, our cars are a bit more efficient than the 70’s fleet, so a present reduction in the limit might not have the same impact as it did back then.

            One thing I’ve noticed, when biking around my town, is there aren’t any bike racks anywhere, but at the grocery store. I live in the San Fernando Valley, above Los Angeles, so you’d think there’d be more cyclist sympathy around here. When i ride to the bank, I always have to use the outside ATM to do everything, so I can keep an eye on my bike – luckily BofA has made it quite easy to deposit money at the ATM. No racks at the post office, nor at the video store. I only go to the mall once or twice per year, so I haven’t noticed if there’s any there or not.

            If they’d just put up some racks and start a bicycling campaign, informing folks about the racks, and the racks on the fronts of buses, then that would at least be a little something. I’m not the only one at the grocery that rides a bike, as there are other bikes in the rack when i go, so I’m thinking at the very least, those other cyclists might want racks at the other common town establishments too.

          • rayduray Says:

            Hi Andrew,

            I haven’t been to the San Fernando valley but my impression is that it was designed around the automobile.

            I’m fortunate in that my home town of Bend, OR has been catering to bicyclists for a long time now. Bike racks are nearly ubiquitous in all commercial/public areas. I’ve also been completely charmed by the number of store owners who thoughtfully set out water bowls by their front doors for those out as pedestrians with their dogs on leash. It’s a rather charming city in that way. πŸ™‚

  3. Chris Says:

    Just noticed the video from your YT channel playlist, Weird Winter – Mad March – Part 2, from user yaleclimateforum is no longer available due to BBC copyright claim.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      right. for some reason, there’s been a block of some kind placed on some
      bbc footage I used – although other bbc footage remains ok, for now.
      I will be recutting this piece soon, as I feel there is very important
      information here.

  4. […] h/t Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  5. williamburr2012 Says:

    Is all this Jet travel still necessary in the Age of Video Conferencing and Information Technology? GreenmanPA.

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “Is all this Jet travel still necessary in the Age of Video Conferencing and Information Technology?”

      Depends on what your definition of “necessary” is, eh?

      The hotel owners in Cancun would say jet travel is an absolute necessity for their bottom line. Their guests might be persuaded they are merely on a voluntary and frivolous vacation. If we can get them to see the light.

      Isn’t most jet travel about frivolous desire and essentially none of it about dire necessity? I mean, who needs the sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay airfreighted to China to have the pin bones picked and then transshipped to L.A. to look good in the seafood case? Can’t Anglo L.A. matrons get their Filipina housekeepers to deal with the bones?

      How many flights to Antgua, St. Croix, Kauai and Papeete’s Five Star Hotels are “necessities”? Damn few, I’d say. Except if you’re making a living in the luxury tourist bidness. Then its a damn necessity for certain.

      A 2,000 year old food forest in southern Morocco:

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