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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Billion Biofuel Branson

Bully for Branson. The article reads like most of the expected $3 billion (highly unknown, based on future Virgin profits) will be spent on developing biofuels. That sounds unexciting, but looks like they're going for big improvements.
The first investment was made in Cilion, a new California company building ethanol refineries that Virgin officials said burn far less fossil fuel than conventional biofuel operations.
However I think people are confusing not using fossil fuels and not producing greenhouse gasses:
“But the only way global warming is going to be beaten is to invest in new fuels that can actually replace fossil fuels.”
Uh, biofuels still produce greenhouse gasses. That's why I'm more excited by solar, windpower and other zero-emission technologies.

But airplanes aren't going to fly on electricity anytime soon, so Branson can be forgiven for being conservative. IATA has some cool figures on airplane fuel efficiency:
  • New aircraft are 70% more fuel efficient than 40 years ago and 20% better than 10 years ago.
  • The industry is aiming for a further 50% fuel efficiency improvement by 2020.
  • Modern aircraft achieve fuel efficiencies of 3.5 litres per 100 passenger km.
  • The A380 and B787 are aiming for 3 litres per 100 passenger km – better than a compact car!
I had no idea airplanes had improved so much. Sounds like another good investment would be to retire old planes ASAP. Maybe big airlines will lobby to force retirement, as new airlines using old planes are cutting into big airlines' profits.

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