Ships that eat plastic. Electric planes are ready. Are gas stations killing us?

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

Stories from a Blue Planet: Bob Kihslinger

photo of the manta ship that harvests sea plastics
Manta at sea

Ships that eat plastic

I have a couple of videos for you that you will enjoy. I did. The first shows an ocean-going vessel that creates its own fuel from ocean waste it picks up and recycles the rest. It’s called the Manta and is a truly an example of recycling innovation and ingenuity.

It roams they ocean sucking up trash on a conveyor belt separating the metal and plastics. It immediately converts the plastics to fuel that powers the ship and stores the metals for recycling when it gets back to shore. You must see it to appreciate the whole concept.

Then, there is the river version of plastic eating ships. It’s called an “interceptor” and cruises the river autonomously sucking up river trash and depositing into six large bins that are removed each night. The idea is to capture all the waste before it hits the ocean. If you are looking to invest some money, they are looking for partners.

electric air plane in flight
Electric Airplane

When will you fly in your first electric plane?

Nova produced a marvelous segment on the future of airplanes in the age of climate change. I think you would find it fascinating. Let me give you the short, down and dirty version of the conclusions they reached.

Cars and Taxis: There are dozens of companies racing to get approval for their drone-like flying machines designed to transport people around town. These are not concepts for the future. They exist today. They have been built and tested and are awaiting FDA approval to go into production. The goal is to compete with the car you buy and the taxi you use. Expect to see them in the next year or two.

Short haul aircraft: For short trips of two hundred miles or less you will be flying in battery powered, electric engine airplanes. Again, there are dozens of companies racing to get FDA approval for their products. The advantages of electric flight are compelling. They are quiet, less costly to operate and maintain, and extremely reliable. They will be here and operating by the thousands in this decade.

Medium flight airliners: For flights between 200 and 2,000 miles that carry 100 to 150 people the challenge is more robust. The weight of batteries makes it unrealistic to fly such an airplane electrically. Hydrogen is an answer but while hydrogen provides immense power and can perform well over great distances, it doesn’t provide the immediate energy surge required for takeoff. The answer is a hybrid. Planes are being developed that use electric engines for takeoff and hydrogen powered engines during flight and landings. While these prototypes are being built it may take a bit longer to get into production than smaller planes.

For trips longer than 2,000 miles we will have to wait. However, the fact that electric and hydrogen planes appear to be less costly to produce, fly and maintain means they are sure as hell going to get built.