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”. The World Development Movement said yesterday that even if all flights in the country used biofuels, the reduction in British aviation’s contribution to climate change would be cancelled out by one year’s growth in flights.

Its head of policy, Pete Hardstaff, said: “This is nothing more than a Virgin publicity stunt with dangerous consequences for the planet.”

I couldn’t agree more. The sooner people see through Branson’s greenwashing the better.


  • I think the change to biofuel is more with politics than with environment so it does not matter if the green house effect is reduced, but what matter is that the fuel market will be more free from the political unrest in the oil countries.

  • Prior to the flight taking off from Heathrow, Branson made a comment to an environmental group representative who criticized the demonstration. Branso said something like … “I’ve invested my time and money in this to see if we can make a positive contribution to the environment. What has your group done … have they employed any engineers to help solve problems?”.

    If you’re going to critique, one should be prepared to offer an alternative solution.

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