Airlines Flying on Clean Fuel Should Pay Less Tax, Branson Says

Branson manages to persuade  many people that he takes his responsibilities to the environment seriously, and really plans to fly “green” and “clean” planes … whatever those charmingly vague terms mean. The spin about “clean”, alternative bio-jet fuels is fair enough if it concerns fuels made from waste flue gases, but his hopes of the aviation industry growing hugely by 2050 and getting half its fuel from biofuels by then are unrealistic. The hype is intended to persuade government etc that the aviation industry is seriously trying to tackle the issue of carbon emissions and thus to get as much government subsidy for this as possible. In reality it is a delaying tactic to to continue business as usual. 

Sir Richard Branson Talks Clean Fuel Initative

Sir Richard Branson talks about his philosophy of business and philanthropy. He said the first rule of a business is to survive. But once a business is thriving it must give back. His way of doing that is to pledge to take the profits from his dirty businesses — like the airline Virgin Airways — and put into his clean fuel initiative. He has invested in companies that make clean fuels for planes. He says they will be able to use clean fuels by 2020 which will be cheaper than fuel used now. One company he invested in turns emissions from plants into alcohol, which is turned into fuel.

Take a look: [There is a highly disingenuous and highly annoying video clip of Branson, who almost seems to believe his own spin about what being “green” is.  If he believes his own hype, he is dangerously misinformed; if he knows it to be misleading, it confirms his role in further damaging the climate and the planet. His aim is to continue flying, and grow his aviation business as much as possible].

Airlines Flying on Clean Fuel Should Pay Less Tax, Branson Says

By Louise Downing – Dec 5, 2011 

Governments need to make it “very clear” that jet fuel made from sources such as inedible plants and organic waste aren’t taxed like regular fuel, said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.

A push by governments to remove taxes levied on airlines if they switch to using clean fuel would provide “enormous encouragement to the airline industry” to invest further in biofuel companies, Branson said today in a telephone interview. Virgin already has invested in Gevo Inc. and Solazyme Inc.

The airline spends more than $2 billion a year on fuel and there is “billions and billions and billions” there for the taking by the clean energy industry, the entrepreneur said. The industry fuel bill was $139 billion in 2010.

“Governments need to make it clear that if it’s clean fuel it shouldn’t be taxed and if it’s dirty fuel it should be taxed and that seems to be the best way to speed things up,” he said. The International Air Transport Association, (IATA) which estimates the aviation industry accounts for 2 percent of global carbon- dioxide emissions, set a target in 2007 to eliminate these emissions from air travel by 2050.

The Carbon War Room, a not-for-profit organization funded by Branson, today started a web and information site aimed at reducing the use of traditional jet fuels by as much as 50 percent. It will also play a role in talking to governments to try and push a “no-tax on clean fuel policy,” Branson said. “I think they will be knocking at an open door as it will be very difficult for governments to disagree with that,” he said.

‘Reduce Air Fares’

Aviation could move from being one of the dirtiest industries to being one of the cleanest rapidly, Branson said. He hopes that this can be achieved by 2020.

Virgin Atlantic, which in 2008 became the first airline to fly a plane using first-generation biofuel made from babassu nuts and coconut oil mixed with kerosene, plans in two to three years to fly planes using fuel made from waste gases from steel mills.

Over the next year it will work with LanzaTech NZ Ltd., which makes the fuel, to sign deals with aluminum and steel plants so they can roll out production “as fast as possible.”

There are about 1,800 tanks filling airplanes around the world with fuel so once there are two to three companies producing renewable jet fuel, it will be easy to supply them to the airline industry, Branson said.

Airlines on July 1 won approval from the U.S. technical standards body ASTM International to blend fuel from inedible plants and organic waste with traditional kerosene-based jet fuel. Since approval, Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA)Finnair Oyj (FIA1S) and Air France-KLM Group have flown planes using the fuel.

ASTM is now testing fuel made from alcohols, and this is expected to be approved in 2013.

Renewable aviation fuel would provide competition to traditional jet fuel. “Ultimately if you have a competitor, we might be able to reduce costs and therefore reduce airfares,” Branson said.


Scaling Biofuels for Aviation ‘Not so difficult,’ Branson Says

(Earth and Industry)

by Timothy Hurst on December 5, 2011

The commercial aviation industry could go from being one of the dirtiest to being one of the cleanest in ten years, according to one of the industry’s best-known figures.

Richard Branson says the world’s 7,000 airlines could switch to low-carbon jet fuels much faster than other forms of transportation because airplanes have very few “filling stations.”

“Unlike cars where there are millions of filling stations, there are only about 1,700 aviation stations in the world. So if you can get the right fuel, like mass-produced algae, [still not viable on a large scale] then getting it to 1,700 outlets is not so difficult,” Branson said in an interview with The Guardian.

Branson’s Virgin Group, which owns a majority stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways, said the industry should aim for 50% sustainable fuels by 2020.

“Aviation fuel is 25-40% of the running costs of airlines so the industry is open to new fuels,” said Branson, who also heads up the Carbon War Room, an effort to work with and reward businesses that lead reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Some airlines are way ahead of others in the quest to make biofuels a regular part of the commercial aviation fuel mix. Several European airlines have tested or incorporated low-carbon fuels, as required by the EU program to reduce emissions from the aviation sector. But in North America, in the absence of such laws, progress is much slower.

Last month, Alaska Air chairman and CEO Bill Ayer lauded sustainable biofuels as “key to aviation’s future,” at the start of Alaska Air’s biofuel trial period of 75 regularly-scheduled commercial flights running on a biofuel blend.  Alaska was on course to be the first airline in the U.S. to fly a commercial flight powered by biofuel but two days before they were scheduled to do so, United edged out Alaska Air to take the honors.

Unlike Alaska Air, however, United has no immediate plans to procure a long-term supply of biofuels for use in their domestic aviation operations.


and Guardian at

see also

Branson hoping for 50% “sustainable” aviation fuels by 2020 (8 years ahead)

Date added: December 5, 2011

Guardian article about Richard Branson and his hopes for aviation being able to use biofuels for perhaps 50% of their fuel by 2020. This is based on the hope that biofuels, from algae in particular, will be very low carbon. There is a lot of unfounded optimism about what biofuels’ carbon emissions will be, now cheap they will be, and how fast they can be scaled up to industrial quantities. Branson’s aim is not to cut overall emissions, but get cheap fuel for airlines, so they can continue to grow – and thus postpone the day when the industry acutually starts to be responsible for its environmental impact.

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