Monday, February 25, 2008

Virgin's Vaulting Vision

Virgin's Atlantic Boeing 747 took off Sunday from Heathrow Airport on a passenger-less flight to Amsterdam in what was hyped as a "first step towards cleaner flying". Using biofuels in one of its four main tanks, Airline President Sir Richard Branson claimed "the dramatic flight will provide crucial knowledge which can be used to significantly reduce carbon blueprints" contributed by the aviation industry. This is the same airline that pledged to use all its profits from its transportation companies to develop clean energy. Sir Richard added that the flight will bring the company closer to achieving its goals. Yet, the 3 other main tanks carried the standard aviation fuel in case something went wrong. Apparently, Sir Richard was more prepared to fly dirty with a 3 to 1 advantage for the carbon emitting fuel versus the biofuel.

The claim has been shot down by green campaigner Kenneth Richter of Friends of the Earth. Studies show that biofuels' impact on reducing carbon emissions is negligible and that converting land to crops for biofuel can generate more carbon emissions than it can reduce; besides threatening food supply for a growing world population. Richter suggests that Sir Richard support calls for the inclusion of aircraft emissions in the UK Government's Climate Change Bill instead. However, Sir Richard's predilection for virgins (Virgin Cola, Virgin Records,Virgin Megastores, Virgin Atlantic Airways) fueled his insistence that the potential penetration of this Virgin flight towards faster development of alternatives to fossil fuels, will be the major thrust of the company.

The flight was branded as a gimmick that distracts the effort at finding real solutions to climate change. Richter was adamant in saying that what needs to be done is to "stop the mad expansion of aviation and to desist from subsidizing the industry". Unlike Jet-A fuel which has a stable energy content and low freeze point, and is better suited to low temperatures faced by high flying aircraft; biofuels are of questionable reliability at such temperatures. It can freeze and may not burn consistently, making it risky as a fuel source for long term flights. This tendency towards frigidity could make the engines unresponsive.

Virgin was uncharacteristically tight-lipped about the biofuel composition until the day of the flight, promising only that it wouldn't compete with food and fresh water resource supplies. After take-off, the fuel was revealed to be a mix of coconuts and Brazilian babassu oil. Virgin Airlines use of this biofuel mix can be made distinctive for those passengers who want less carbon emissions for their trips. It can be referred to as Virgin Coconut Oil flight to Amsterdam or where ever! It would be a healthy flight, if you can reach your destination.



Debbie said...

This was CRAZY. The global warming folks have made this a religion. It's a sin to speak out against the global warming hoax. Oh my. Did you hear Rush Limbaugh ranting in this?

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Blogtommy said...

Global warming is a scientific fact. Not sure 1/4 of the fuel used in one plane ride means much. Bio fuels in general are not looking terribly tenable given production costs and the shear amount of raw materials needed to make it a reasonable alternative. Solar and wind I still believe will ultimately save more and do more to deal with the carbon footprint that continues to grow even if such well known scientists as RL fail to see the evidence through the rose colored (drug induced stupor) that is his "view."

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Debbie,

Both sides of the global warming issue have data and statistics to back up their positions. The concern of Richard Branson is whoever is correct, he wouldn't want to contribute in any way to potential damage.

However, use of biofuels could be risky for air travel. Sir Richard seems to want a diffusion of the issues towards the expansion of the aviation industry, and the "experiment" is an excuse.

He however knows the difficulties and estimates that such an event (biofuels for aircraft) in aviation would take a decade to happen. --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tommy,

We have been using and testing several types of alternative energy in some of our projects and we have come to the same conclusion: Wind energy is the most viable followed by solar energy.

The problem is, solar panels are still pricey and turbines for wind power are at risk of toppling over in typhoon and earthquake prone areas in Southeast Asia.

In these area and under these projects, some do not believe in the Global warming causes so we use economical and cheaper energy source as a tact in getting their support. --Durano, done!

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