Monday, June 14, 2010

Virgin Airlines: Powered by Pond Scum? - by Bruce Falconer (Mother Jones )

Virgin founder Richard Branson has set out to create a viable biofuel. Will his ecofriendly venture take off?

Before meeting with Al Gore over breakfast in 2006, Richard Branson, the swashbuckling founder of Virgin Ltd., an amalgam of over 200 companies sharing the Virgin brand, was long a global warming skeptic. But then the former vice president (and recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to combat climate change) spent two hours at the billionaire entrepreneur's home laying out his case. "Sadly, I'm now convinced that the world has a serious problem," he told ABC's Good Morning America that September with Gore at his side. Joining the former vice president in his environmental crusade, Branson pledged to funnel all profits from his rail and airline holdings over the next 10 years—an estimated $3 billion—into developing a non-ethanol-based, sustainable biofuel to power the world's cars, trains, and airplanes. Last fall, he and Gore went on to establish the Virgin Earth Challenge, a $25 million award for the development of technology that can suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere for 10 consecutive years and "contribute materially to the stability of Earth's climate."

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