Wednesday, November 16, 2005
And some good news for a change...
Tired of skyrocketing jet fuel prices, Virgin Atlantic Airways boss Richard Branson says he plans to turn his back on hydrocarbons and use plant waste to power his fleet.
"We are looking for alternative fuel sources. We are going to start building cellulosic ethanol plants (to make) fuel that is derived from the waste product of the plant," he said.
"It is 100 per cent environmentally friendly and I believe it's the future of fuel, and over the next 20 or 30 years I think it actually will replace the conventional fuel that you get out of the ground."
Mr Branson did not say where Virgin would build its factories or how economically viable cellulosic ethanol would prove.
"We are in the early days," he admitted.
He says cellulosic ethanol "is the by-product you get from the waste product (of plants), the bits in the field that get burned up" as opposed to ethanol, which is produced from fruit or corn for example.
Mr Branson's Virgin Group has a 51 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic as well as interests in Virgin Cargo, Virgin Nigeria and Australia's Virgin Blue.
He says the combined fleet is almost 100 aircraft.
"We use around 700 million gallons of fuel a year between the four airlines," he said.
"I hope that over the next five to six years we can replace some or all of that (with ethanol)."
(This is very similar to my own approach regarding my bloodstream - my edit, Branson didn't say that. Pity)
Some of the UK's most environmentally sensitive upland lakes and streams are recovering from the impact of acid rain, the government has said.
Acidic sulphur in Britain's water has generally halved in the last 15 years, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said research showed.
In around half of 22 sites monitored by scientists, invertebrates and native algae were showing signs of recovery.
It is thought that emissions controls and greater use of natural gas instead of coal is aiding the reduction and boosting fish, plants and insects.
Since 1970 there has been a 74% decline in sulphur dioxide emissions from 3.8 million tonnes to one million tonnes in 2002, and a 37% decline in emissions of nitrogen oxides.
The switch from coal to gas in both power generation and in the home, while being mainly for economic reasons, has also meant a lot less pollution
In some sites, acid-sensitive mosses and other aquatic plants were found for the first time in 15 years.
And at three of the most acidic sites identified, juvenile brown trout have recently been found for the first time since 1988.
Other examples of improvements include the River Etherow in the Pennines which has experienced substantial reductions in biologically toxic aluminium.
Also, the Round Loch of Glenhead, in Galloway, and Llyn Llag in Snowdonia - both with a well documented history of acidification - have seen stands of aquatic plants return.
Ben Bradshaw said the research highlighted how measures brought in by government were starting to bear fruit.
"New strengthened measures such as the implementation of the Large Combustion Plant Directive will help ease the situation even further."