George Monbiot talking nonsense again. Only, today, it’s rather grandiose nonsense.
So now we know: Richard Branson doesn’t read the Guardian. On Thursday, it published an extract from my book showing that there are no foreseeable substitutes for aviation fuel (kerosene) that don’t currently cause more harm than good. A few hours later, Branson announced that he would be investing £1.6bn in technologies intended to reduce climate change. First among them would be alternative fuels for aircraft.
He singled out biofuels as a promising opportunity. While pure biodiesel can be used to run a car engine, it cannot be used in jet planes at a higher concentration than roughly 10%. This is because its “cloud point” is much higher than kerosene’s.
As I posted in the comments to George’s article, I couldn’t discuss the science of aviation fuel with either George or Richard – at least, not without looking rather unintelligent. But I think I can safely say that, if Richard Branson is investing £1.6 billion in the research, he’s got something interesting in mind.
And what’s this about?
Now it could be that Branson’s money will help develop a new source of biofuel – algae grown in ponds in the desert for example, or waste products from crops and forestry. If so, that’s something we should welcome, while remembering that it can’t comprise more than 10% of his fleet’s fuel. The problem is that we need to cut carbon emissions by 87% by 2030 in every sector – aviation included – and there’s no conceivable way in which a change of fuel could do this, especially if the number of flights keeps growing.
Monbiot’s condemning Branson because the carbon emissions he may save from cutting aircraft emissions won’t be enough to save the entire world?
Give the guy a break. One man can only do so much…!