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Flying from Lanseria Airport in Gauteng to Cape Town, Africa, a distance of about 865 miles, would appear to be no extraordinary feat. That is, unless the passenger aircraft, a Boeing 737, flew the distance while burning nothing but 100-percent synthetic jet fuel. Then the trip would not only be extraordinary, but also a world's first.

I don't like the wording in Slate's headline for this great story on the Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-liquid process (is it really "one of the world's most exciting new fuel sources"? Is it really even new if it was developed in the 1920s?), but I still encourage you to read the story. The world is a complicated place, and Daniel Gross' investigation of how Fischer-Tropsch moved from Nazi synthfuel to the fuel of choice for South Africa's state run energy company emphasizes this. The company, Sasol,