Wed Sep 27th, 2006 at 07:31:40 AM EST
Richard Branson has launched a mission to make air travel more environmentally friendly:
British billionaire Richard Branson proposed changes this morning to aircraft movements at busy airports as part of a plan he said would cut the world's aviation emissions by up to 25 per cent.
Mr Branson, who last week committed to spending all the profits from his airline and rail businesses to combat global warming, is lobbying airlines and airports to consider his cross-industry proposal to slash emissions.
The Virgin Group chairman proposed "starting grids" be set up at major airports which would allow a plane to be towed from its stand by a small tug closer to the runway before takeoff, reducing the time engines are running.
This would reduce fuel consumption and on-the-ground carbon emissions for Virgin Atlantic aircraft by more than 50 per cent ahead of take-off at London's Heathrow Airport and almost 90 per cent at New York's John F Kennedy airport, Mr Branson said in a statement.
The proposal is the next stage in Mr Branson's public pledge to help tackle global warming.
Mr Branson has created Virgin Fuels, which will invest $400 million over three years in renewable energy initiatives as part of his pledge.
A 25% reduction just through efficiency measures? Sounds good, especially if he's supporting research into alternative fuels.
Strangely enough, George Monbiot isn't impressed. Leaving aside the self-important introduction to his article where he more-or-less says that he's a much better engineer than everyone else he is putting forward the "I don't know how to do it so it can't be done" argument:
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. At low temperatures, oils go cloudy, and at a couple of degrees beyond that point, they form a gel that would block the engine. As the plane rises through the troposphere, and the temperature cools, its engines would clog and stall. Even a 10% mixture is likely to be fatal, as it raises the cloud point from -51C to -29C.
I guess they'll have to keep the fuel warm then. I thought the real problem was energy density? He does point out that Branson's Virgin fleet are less energy efficient than other companies because of the emphasis on business class and thus less passengers per plane.