News briefs: Renewables zap fossil fuels as EU’s chief source of electricity

Plus: Boeing jets to soar on biofuels, pond scum proteins on your plate, and pollution can blind you

Renewables zap fossil fuels as EU’s chief source of electricity

A giant push for green energy has led to fossil fuels being elbowed aside as the largest source powering the Europe Union’s energy grid. Renewables produced 38% of the EU’s electricity in 2020, up from 34% in 2019, according to analysis of grid data by two research organizations, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, fossil fuel power generation dropped to 37% while wind and solar generation increased about 10%. Coal production fell 20%, to about half the level it was five years ago. Gas generation dipped as well, about 4%, but was still 12% higher than the median gas generation of the past 10 years. The remaining 25% comes from nuclear, which dominates electricity in several countries, notably France, Slovakia, Belgium and Hungary. Europe needs to double the share of electricity produced from renewable sources in the next nine years in order to achieve a target of reducing emissions at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.

Boeing brags new planes will fly on 100% biofuel by 2030

The battered Boeing Co. (BA), still reeling after two crashes grounded its 737 Max model for nearly two years, has some good news at last — it will begin delivering commercial airplanes capable of flying on 100% biofuel by 2030, reports Reuters. Boeing’s goal, which requires redesigned engines and safety certification by global regulators, is central to an industry target of slashing carbon emissions in half by 2050, the plane maker said. Commercial flying currently accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions and about 12% of transport emissions, according to data cited by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

Get ready for pond scum products on your plate

An attempt to extract natural food coloring from a common algae has led to an Earth-friendly discovery — that the green goo can be turned into a high-protein superfood that can be used for plant-based substitutes for such edibles as meat, yogurt and cheese. According to website FoodDive.com, it all started when Chicago-area medical doctor Leonard Lerer, having heard in 2016 that Mars Inc. wanted to use natural dyes in its M&Ms, decided to see if he could pull a blue hue from the common spirulina algae. In 2018, he founded Back of the Yards Algae Sciences, which has become one of the three largest producers of spirulina-based coloring, and now he is joining a global algae protein manufacturing effort, which includes giants Nestle and Unilever (UL), that’s expected to be worth more than $1 billion by 2026.  

Air pollution can blind you, researchers find

Researchers in the U.K. have found that air pollution increases the risk of sight loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The findings, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology and reported in The Guardian, follows previous work that found links between dirty air and glaucoma. “There is an enormously high flow of blood [to the retina] and we think that as a consequence of that the distribution of pollutants is greater to the eye than to other places,” said Prof. Paul Foster at University College London, a member of the study team. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among the over-50s in high-income countries.