“Now For My Next Amazing Trick …”

August 6, 2008 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

In September 2006, Richard Branson, head of the vast Virgin empire, made an announcement that commanded headline news around the world. At the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York, while he rubbed elbows with the political elite, Branson solemnly told the assembled media that people had a duty to pass a ‘‘pristine’’ planet on to the next generation.

Taking a cue from his own challenge, Branson then announced that he would invest the profits from his aviation and train companies in the fight to protect the environment. His pledge equated to €1.9 billion over the next 10 years. Politicians around the world praised Branson for his imagination and generosity.

However, a look at the fine print revealed that this amazing gesture is really not so amazing. In fact, Branson’s pledge was simply a tax-free funnel for him to pipe the profits from several of his divisions to fund the start-up of a new division and get a lot of free publicity in the process. Instead of working to protect vast tracts of the Amazon, as everyone assumed he meant, the reality of Branson’s much trumpeted pledge of €1.9bn was that he geared himself up to make more money. The pledged monies go, in fact, to a new division of the Virgin conglomerate, called Virgin Fuel. However, Branson’s gift for ‘spin’ leads us to believe that he will be doing the rest of us a favor in the process.

To even further disperse the smoke and shatter the mirrors surrounding Branson’s environmental stance, in February, a Virgin Airlines 747 flew from London to Amsterdam on a 20 percent bio-fuel mixture. The irony of the (again) much publicized event was that the enormous airliner completed the flight sans passengers or cargo. Though the flight received a bit of media attention, those wise to Branson’s PR machine dismissed the flight as a stunt.

In yet another chapter of the paradoxical book that is Richard Branson, since the start up of Virgin Fuels in 2006, hundreds of thousands of acres of tropical rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia have been decimated to make way for palm plantations which will in turn be developed into bio-fuel for Virgin industries. Branson’s efforts to make Virgin appear to be environmentally friendly is in fact quickening the Earth’s demise.

While Richard Branson has done little to save the planet (and a heck of a lot to pollute it), this week he announced that he can arrange for you to look down upon it. On Monday Branson unveiled an aircraft for flying tourists into space. His latest venture, Virgin Galactic, will soon offer sub-orbital flights for 6 lucky, not to mention wealthy, passengers. The actual jet/spaceship is not yet complete, but apparently 250 people have already paid $200,000 up front for the experience.

Spraying huge amounts of jet fuel into the atmosphere to allow rich people to look down on an dying planet is about as stupid and hypocritical as it gets. Though, I’m sure that the Earth, as seen from space, is a beautiful sight, you had better enjoy it while it lasts.

By briansrapier

[via The Sunday Business Post]

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Entry filed under: Biofuels, Energy, Environment, Informational. Tags: , , , , .

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