The world's first commercial aircraft powered partly by biofuel took off from Heathrow yesterday to a storm of criticism from climate change experts, who insisted it was nothing more than Sir Richard Branson's latest "nonsensical" publicity stunt.
The Virgin Atlantic 747 flew from London to Amsterdam using a 20 per cent biofuel mix of coconut and babassu oil in one of its four main fuel tanks.
Sir Richard said the "historic" flight was the first step towards using biofuels on commercial flights. But campaigners said that carbon savings from bio-fuels, often made from organic materials such as wheat, sugarcane and palm oil, were "negligible".
Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner, said: "Biofuels are a major distraction in the fight against climate change.
"There is mounting evidence that the carbon savings from biofuels are negligible. If Virgin was really serious about reducing the aviation industry's impact on the environment, it would support calls for aircraft emissions to be included in the Climate Change Bill." (2)
So now Damon and Perdita can fly off to Mozambique to eat barbeque lion penises (3) and gawp at the "quaint" locals and come back with some ethnic knick-knacks that were made in China, with a clear conscience, because 20% of the fuel used to get them there might actually have been worse for the environment than the stuff that glugs out of the sand.
Some bio-fuels might have some use in reducing Co2, but flying doesn't. Branson's use of bio-fuels to justify and promote more air travel suggests either jaw-dropping stupidity, or grasping selfish hypocrisy.
Which could it be?
1 - 'First biofuel flight dismissed as Virgin stunt,' by Eoghan Williams in The Independent, 25th of February, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/first-biofuel-flight-dismissed-as-virgin-stunt-786847.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - I don''t know, off hand, if you get lions in Mozambique. If not, the lion penises were probably imported, just to compound the wickedness of it all.