Things are really hotting up this week in the great debate about air transport being the big nasty in terms of pollution and climate change, as well as the social impact of airport expansion.
Firstly, Virgin Airways, of the entrepreneurial Richard Branson type, unleashed its first test flight of a plane using bio-fuel from Heathrow.
The environmental media in the UK was scathing of this first-ever flight: “coconut airways – jet on a flight to nowhere” taunted The Guardian. While Branson hailed the flight from London to Holland as revolutionary, it was revealed that of the 747’s 4 fuel-carrying tanks, 3 were filled with regular fuel, while the 4th had a mixture of 80% regular fuel, and 20% coconut and babassu palm oil.
Branson, as well as getting involved in some interesting plans for commercial space travel, and working with Green Prophet hero Al Gore on a range of environmental technology schemes, is starting to invest the profit from his transport network into bio-fuels research, particularly into algae as a major component.
Friends of the Earth UK and the World Development Movement (WDM) both commended the experiment but said it didn’t go far enough in seriously attempting to reduce emissions in the aviation Industry. Earlier bio-fuels trials in the UK by both bus and train companies were abandoned, due to research and financial restraints.
Back to Heathrow, and anyone who has ever flown there (via British Airways or El Al from Israel) will be aware of the controversy surrounding the new terminal – which is built and shortly to be opened, and the proposed new runway. People have had compulsory purchase orders upon their land and property in the area, and a river has been diverted. This morning this short film arrived in my inbox, graphically showing the effect of increased aviation on the children in the area. Join the debate!