Sunday, February 24, 2008


Virgin has not revealed what the biofuel is. The first flight by a commercial airline to be powered partly by biofuel is to take off from Heathrow airport.
Billed as a green fuel breakthrough, the Virgin Atlantic flight to Amsterdam will not have any passengers on board.
Earlier this month, Airbus used the world's largest passenger jet, the A380 to flight test another alternative fuel - a synthetic mix of gas-to-liquid.
Many environmentalists argue that cultivating biofuel is not sustainable and will lead to reduced land for food.
Virgin's Boeing 747 will have one of its four engines connected to an independent tank filled with biofuel, which is derived from plants.
This reduces risk to the flight because there are three other engines which can power the plane using conventional fuel if there is a problem.
The three-hour Airbus flight from Filton near Bristol to Toulouse on 1 February was part of an ongoing research programme.

Virgin has so far refused to say what its biofuel is made from.
One problem with flying planes using biofuel is that it is more likely to freeze at high altitude.
The technology is still being manufactured by companies GE and Boeing, but Virgin believes within 10 years airlines could routinely be flying on plant power.
Kenneth Richter, of Friends of the Earth, said the flight was a "gimmick", distracting from real solutions to climate change.

They are any fuels made from living things
Commonly means fuel made from crops including corn
Pioneers such as Henry Ford designed cars to run on biofuels

"If you look at the latest scientific research it clearly shows biofuels do very little to reduce emissions. At the same time we are very concerned about the impact of the large scale increase in biofuel production on the environment and food prices worldwide," he said.
"What we need to do is stop this mad expansion of aviation at the moment it is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the UK and we need to stop subsidising the industry."
But Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson told BBC News 24 that using technology to develop greener fuel options will lower emissions and allow for other global warming issues to be tackled.
"It's not necessarily going to be the silver bullet for the long term future but it will prove that a fuel like this can fly at 30,000 feet," he said of the move which challenges the convention that biofuels freeze above 15,000 feet.
A spokesman said the airline will reveal the specific biofuel after the flight but stressed that it was one which did not compete with staple food resources.



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