Branson fuels up plane with nuts
by Alan Harten
February 25, 2008
On Sunday, the world’s first commercial airline flight powered by renewable energy, took off from London. And if that wasn’t enough, the biofuel was supplied by nuts picked in the Amazon rain forests.
The jumbo jet sporting the Virgin Atlantic logo undertook the one-hour flight from London to Amsterdam with its tanks filled with what is called a ‘bio-jet blend’ fuel. This fuel includes coconut oil, and babassu oil.
Richard Branson, who of course, is no stranger to ‘firsts’ and unusual publicity outlets is quoted as saying: “Today marks a vital breakthrough for the whole airline industry,”
The billionaire British entrepreneur, also said that it would be unlikely that nuts from a wild tree, the babassu palm, would be envisaged as playing a major role in future biofuel for aircraft.
He also said: “We did not want to use biofuels such as corn oil which were competing with staple food sources,” he said, adding he believed algae produced in places like sewage treatment farms were the most likely future source of renewable fuel for the airline industry.
New biofuels made from agricultural crops such as sugarcane, vegetable oil and grains are seen as the way forward, cutting the emission of greenhouse gases, on both the land, and in the air.
There is, however, growing concern that this expansion of crop growing to help supplement our energy needs, will ultimately drive up food prices. There are scientific doubts about the viability of producing these fuels without causing major ecological damage.
Many in the scientific community believe we will need to move on to what will be known as second-generation biofuels. These will be made from domestic solid waste and sewage. And should achieve our aims of reducing emissions, without damaging the planet further by clearing forests for the production of biofuels.
The fuel on board, the virgin flight was made up of 80% conventional fuel and 20% of the nut based biofuel. Branson believes that it will be possible to fly his jets with 40% biofuel in the mix.
Branson has publicly committed to spending all of Virgin Groups considerable profits from his rail and airline businesses on measures to cut back carbon emissions
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