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Sir Richard Branson going green?

Richard Branson says he is going green, and invests in research for renewables such as biofuels.

The head of the Virgin Group and billionaire Sir Richard Branson is set to complete the $400 million (£240m) fundraising for his energy venture in renewables within two months, according to British newspaper The Independent.

One of the vehicles for the investments into renewables is the private-equity fund, Virgin Green Fund, which reportedly pumps $5-100m into renewables in the USA and western Europe.

In an interview with newspaper The Sunday Times, he was quoted as saying: “We shouldn’t stop trying just because we have not yet put our own house 100% in order or because we think a challenge is too great to achieve.

Coconut airline

Branson’s quest for clean air fuel, or biofuel, reportedly started last year with coconut oil and a test flight was done from London to Amsterdam with a Boeing 747. When it turned out there isn’t enough coconuts to fuel an airline, Branson turned to ethanol. This too was abandoned as ethanol freezes at 15,000 ft.

Branson now swears by isobutanol, which can be made from sugar, amongst other things. He has invested in the California-based isobutanol biofuel firm Gevo, and hopes to have all of the Virgin Atlantic planes running on the biofuel within five years.

Virgin Trains are also testing biofuel in the form of biodiesel.

Branson’s reasoning for investing in renewables such as biofuel, is that the Virgin Group will save money on fuel at the same time as doing its bit for the environment.

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Bioenergy  •  Policy, investment and markets