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In an interview with Global Public Media, Sir Richard Branson told journalist David Strahan that aviation could be made “truly sustainable” at the launch of test flight fuelled in part by coconut oil. But the Virgin boss conceded that meaningful supplies of alternative fuel might not be available before the advent of peak oil, which he said could happen within six years.

Virgin Atlantic flew a Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam with one of the four engines powered by a mixture of 80% conventional jet fuel and 20% biofuel. The biofuel was supplied by Imperium Renewables of Seattle, and made from the oil of coconuts from the Philippines and babassu nuts from Brazil. Because the nuts came from mature plantations or were harvested from rainforest, Virgin and its partners, including Boeing and GE, insisted the fuel does not compete with “staple food” production or contribute to deforestation.

…When GlobalPublicMedia.com raised this issue at a press conference held in Virgin’s hangar at Heathrow, Sir Richard did not attempt to explain where so much land might be found, but did reveal that peak oil was part of the motivation for developing biojetfuel: “Apart from global warming, in about four or five years’ time there’s going to be more demand for fuel than there is fuel on this planet. So fuel prices will go through the roof, and so planes, ships, we’ve all got to come up with alternatives”.