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Richard Branson’s new push, biofuels; coconut oil fueled airliner

| Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 13 Comments

coconut.jpg
Richard Branson, the business man that makes headlines seemingly every week. This time, it is for a green cause, he made history by becoming the first commercial airliner owner to fuel a flight with a partial load of biofuels.
The debatable point is this, it took the oil of 150,000 coconuts and some babassu palm oil to power only 20% of one of four fat tanks on one of his 747 Virgin Atlantic airliners. The headlined trip launched at Heathrow airport and touched down at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, making the mark on what some would claim could be a revolution in environmentally responsible aviation.


“Today marks a biofuel breakthrough for the whole airline industry,” Branson told a press conference held next to the aircraft in a Heathrow hangar. “Virgin Atlantic, and its partners, are proving that you can find an alternative to traditional jet fuel and fly a plane on new technology, such as sustainable biofuel.”
Branson has been publicly promoting his commitment to invest profits from his trasport empire into biofuel production. Critics dispute the green benefits of biofuels however, claiming that biofuels damage developing countries by driving up food prices and harm the environment by encouraging deforestation. In the end, it seems there is opposition to all atempts to do good, what a shame….


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  • http://www.thistoowillpass.com/bradydale/wordpress/ BradyDale

    “Critics dispute the green benefits of biofuels however, claiming that biofuels damage developing countries by driving up food prices and harm the environment by encouraging deforestation. In the end, it seems there is opposition to all atempts to do good, what a shame….”
    This isn’t a very economist thing to say. It’s not a shame to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of new initiatives. We’ve gotta do it. My biggest concern about biofuels is that they ulitmately cost more carbon to produce than they save in using them.

  • BobGreenie

    I think with much of the World struggling to feed itself and with increasing amounts of prime agricultural land being lost to urbanisation, chemical contamination from sustained heavy use, etc we have to question the whole biofuels approach. The mega dollars being thrust into the development of this process from crops could be better put into processes like those producing premium fuels from algae in waste water, etc.
    It seems to me mankind, once again, wants the “easy way out” – let the affluent continue their lifestyle, forget the suffering of millions and who cares the environment! That’s exactly the formula that got us into this whole mess in the first place!
    We have to learn to live with nature not fight it!
    The current rush to biofuels is badly flawed and unsustainable – but it may keep the Humvees going a little longer. With thinking like that, God help us!

  • Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should

    Here here, BobGreenie. I agree wholeheartedly! Biofuels (corn, coconut, sugar cane, switch grass) are going to level the world’s forests if they are to replace gas/oil. If all agriculture land was used to make ethanol, it wouldn’t even power 1/2 of the US fleet of cars. If all humanity attains the material wealth of the US, this planet will be nothing but farms.

  • Sue11

    Current biofuels have very limited benefits in replacing oil in an environmentally friendly way. The current biofuel feedstock and the quantity required DOES force up food prices, especially for the desperately poorer nations. The extensive plantations required to grow this feedstock ARE causing massive deforestation, which pumps huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere and causes further loss of biodiversity. It is unsustainable and is CO2 positive. Even 2nd generation biofuels such as algae or fuel made from waste products can only help in small ways and only as a transitional solution. Even these need to be done as small localised production units servicing small districts to be effective and viable. Extensive large scale production is NOT viable. Reduction in transportation in the short term and totally different technologies in the medium term is part of the answer. We have to realise that we do have to make some sacrifices & adjustments to the way we live. I believe we have a lot of create solutions that are much more viable. We just have to be more disciplined about reducing our use of oil fueled transport and COOL our heals a bit before plunging into a solution that will cause more problems than it solves. Chasing after solutions that we hope will maintain our current lifestyle is a mistake we will live to regret.

  • TheNextDylan

    There is not opposition to do good… there is opposition to dragging people furthur into poverty and tearing down more forest land. Just a few weeks ago ENN published an article about how the use of biofuel in Indonesia ruined forests and lead to more poverty in the country. They may have published this one for the content, but the ending in very biased, especially when the article starts out criticizing the amount of coconuts being used.

  • Lisa

    It frightens me that we could use our food supply to make fuel for our car addiction. Our country does not stop driving when threatened with the loss of our environment, do you think they will stop at the loss of lives from starvation in some country they can’t even locate on a world map? I praise Bronson for showing us that change can happen, but please, don’t put my lunch in your fuel tank. There are other alternatives! We are way to smart to rely only on hydrocarbon chains!

  • Lisa

    It frightens me that we could use our food supply to make fuel for our car addiction. Our country does not stop driving when threatened with the loss of our environment, do you think they will stop at the loss of lives from starvation in some country they can’t even locate on a world map? I praise Branson for showing us that change can happen, but please, don’t put my lunch in your fuel tank. There are other alternatives! We are way to smart to rely only on hydrocarbon chains!

  • http://www.moreperfectmarket.com Jake de Grazia

    I certainly have considerably less than all the info, but isn’t the jury still out on biofuels? I mean obviously the corn solution as presently conceived doesn’t work, and it looks like same story on switchgrass, coconuts, etc., but isn’t there still hope for good biofuels? Craig Venter thinks he can use combinatorial genomics to build biofuels. I can’t say I have anything close to a complete understanding of his technology, but the man spoke at TED last week, so somebody smart thinks he’s onto something.

  • http://www.nationalalgaeassociation.com b cole

    National Algae Association
    Algae: The Next Biofuel
    Inaugural
    Algae Commercialization
    Business Plan and Networking Forum
    April 10, 2008
    http://www.nationalalgaeassociation.com

  • http://www.nationalalgaeassociation.com b cole

    National Algae Association
    Algae: The Next Biofuel
    Inaugural
    Algae Commercialization
    Business Plan and Networking Forum
    April 10, 2008
    http://www.nationalalgaeassociation.com

  • http://www.myspace.com/ransomranch The Ransom Ranch Project

    Let me tell you about the fallout of using corn for bio fuels-the farmers are now in jeopardy of losing the family farms because of jacked up fertilizer costs, fuel costs and taxes-no profit-
    AND
    The Horse Industry is now being seriously affected now as horses are being neglected, abandoned and shipped off to foreign slaughter now because so many people cannot afford to pay for the grain, hay & bedding that horses must have to survive=
    Now non profits are overflowing with the need to raise money to support these animals-with no money left to receive with the skyrocketing fuel costs-
    AND
    driving up our food costs-anything made with petroleum is skyrocketing-SO NOONE CAN MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY A BILL OR EVEN DRIVE TO WORK–
    The trickle down effect has trickled like the Great Mississippi River and let me share with you from a horse rescues viewpoint-this is quickly becoming a devastation—

  • Michele Capek

    so all the states in the usa that already palm trees like florida, california and hawaii should do nothing?
    I think they could grow plenty of coconut plantations and be quite happy at having a new sustainable cash crop

  • http://urbansquirrelstuntdesign.blogspot.com David Scott Martyn

    Dear Sir, I have relatives “across the pond” whom I’d visited in 1987. Since I’ve achieved degrees in art and design, taught, and sailed with the United States Navy as a navigational assistant. I find the work that you and Jean-Michel Cousteau are accomplishing to be inspiring. Our state(Iowa) is leading edge in wind energy output and I’ve friends involved with bio diesel.
    I bike and had horse breeding cousins. I wasn’t aware of what the ransom ranch was experiencing though recall our farm crisis from 1986. My grandfather grew up dairy farming. I am currently researching engineering to troubleshoot any natural disasters which may befall Shanghai and have ideas for other options regarding potential disaster (Rising sea levels trigger fear over Shanghai’s future
    http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/en/NewsInfo.asp?NewsId=7518 [not my site, just info here]) hoping to get engineers from Netherlands involved (since still rebuilding from Katrina). Other projects as well but felt like saying I’m much encouraged as of late by your activities and thank-you, sincerely.

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