A key step in slowing climate change will be to find fuels that burn cleaner, releasing less carbon dioxide into the air. Biofuels might help, says Branson, but they remain unjustifiable if they come at the expense of food production and contribute to rising world food prices. “Our studies found that cellulosic biomass is a better alternative, as is waste from agriculture, municipal sewage and animals. Prairie grass, willows, corn stalks and wheat straw all can be used to manufacture cellulosic ethanol.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Branson’s Virgin has begun investing in biofuel companies that use local resources to create fuel for local energy demands. Biofuels is not a one-size-fits-all solution, he says. Instead, a suite of solutions should be developed that work in different places. Branson emphasizes the role of the private sector in positive social change: “Given our rapidly rising population and the consequent environmental pressure, our solutions have to be technological as well as social—business must be a part of this equation as well.”