Branson Claims It’s Easy to be Green

After he sends people into space, Richard Branson will have his eyes on something a little closer to earth. Pond scum.

A well-publicized Virgin Airlines test flight earlier this year proved that a plane could stay aloft powered by a mixture of gas and bio-fuel made from coconut. Since then, Branson has been reminding naysayers that bio-fuel is a reasonable alternative and is the future of air travel.

Of course, some people are skeptical. If a new type of fuel gums up a car’s engine, that’s one thing. But if it happens to an airplane’s engine in mid-air….

Still, high gasoline prices have made it hard to ignore the eccentric Englishman’s ideas. But will corn or coconut prove a long-term source of fuel?

A study at the University of Minnesota has found a new source that is much cheaper: common algae. According to Reuters, the study shows that algae produces as much as 5,000 gallons of usable oil per acre. Corn, the crop currently championed to produce bio-fuel for cars, produces a mere 18 gallons per acre.

Clearly the future for algae as a bio-fuel is promising. Using it will not affect the price of food the way corn, coconut or soy-based gases do. But the reality is that algae fuels are a long way off.