Sir Richard Branson’s green claims are running on hot air
Fred Pearce’s Greenwash
A cynic would say that his $25m Virgin Earth Challenge prize for a new low-carbon technology is worth the price in free editorial. Equally, Branson’s initiative on biofuels for aircraft, while slightly tarnished by the declining green credentials of biofuels, also grabbed headlines for what does not, as yet, amount to very much…
According to Virgin Galactic’s president Will Whitehorn, every passenger’s promised two minutes on the edge of space will produce roughly the same carbon dioxide emissions as ten hours of transatlantic flight. So it is hardly an advert for greener living â€“ even if the New Mexico terminal has the promised solar panels.
More to the point is Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic. It’s not the biggest in the world. Its website says its carbon dioxide emissions are currently approaching 4.8m tonnes. This is up from 4.2m tonnes five years ago, but still way behind British Airways’ 17m tonnes.
Virgin Atlantic has a “flight plan in place to reduce our impact on the environment”. But this does not include cutting emissions. It means a “30% improvement in the fuel efficiency of our fleet between 2007 and 2020″. Which of course would be neutralised by a 30% increase in flights, something that, on recent trends, is likely to be an underestimate.
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