Greens unmoved by Branson’s biofuel flight

Posted by Laura Grant on February 27, 2008
Posted in Transport

virgin-boeingnew.jpgVirgin Atlantic’s first commercial biofuel flight this week failed to impress Britain’s environmentalists. Some even dismissed it as a “nonsensical” publicity stunt. The Boeing 747 flew from London to Amsterdam using a 20 percent biofuel mix of coconut and babassu oil in one of its four fuel tanks

Climate change campaigners don’t rate biofuels highly as an option to combat climate change. One group suggested that curbing the growth in the number of flights would be a more effective measure. Aviation is one of the fastest growing contributors to carbon emissions and experts forecast that airlines will account for 5 percent of global warming gases in 2050,” the Independent reports.

Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Atlantic, said that the oils used to make the biofuel for this week’s flight were from existing rainforest and derelict plantations, and not from food crops or from a source that caused deforestation. He also said that this biofuel would not be the fuel used in future, which was more likely to be made from an algae, possible from sewage plants.

Airbus has also been testing alternative fuels, although not biofuels. On February 1 the aircraft manufacturer staged the first test flight by a commercial aircraft using a synthetic liquid fuel processed from natural gas. An A380 superjumbo flew from Bristol in the UK to Toulouse, as part of a programme to assess the environmental impact of alternative fuels, the Financial Times reports.

Although gas to liquid fuel reportedly offers only small benefits in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, it is suphur-free and offers significant gains in terms of local air quality, the report says.

Airbus is working with Shell and Rolls-Royce on the test programme.

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