VIRGIN Group (ASX: VBA) founder Sir Richard Branson (pictured) launched a bio-fuel concept today in Brisbane, offered views on a carbon tax and also re-launched his plans for space travel.

During Branson’s speech at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit, marketing videos were played where he advised that Australians should say no to a carbon tax.

“Clean energy is becoming increasingly important for cities like Brisbane – we’re running out of oil and we have the problem of global warming. As business leaders, one of our top priorities must be to create alternative and clean fuels that won’t affect our food supply,” he says.

“We have three different airlines in Australia and we’re currently working with eucalyptus trees, which we think could one day fuel our aeroplanes so we’re investing heavily into this research.

“As far as the carbon tax is concerned, ideally it should be done, just like any tax should done, on a global basis. It shouldn’t be implemented on a country by country basis because it will disadvantage individual countries and companies.”


After recently re-branding the company to Virgin Australia and dropping the troubled Virgin Blue moniker, Branson says one of the keys to his success has been the art of delegation.

“We re-named Virgin Blue Virgin Australia to basically up-market our product so we can attract more business travellers. So the next time business traveler’s fly, it will be on Virgin Australia,” he says.

“I learned early on the importance of delegation and trying to find people that were better-suited than me to run the individual businesses that I would set up. All companies need is a group of people and all this city needs is a group of people, so you need to find the time to motivate these people and believe in the city and company they work for and to go that extra mile so they excel.”

Outer space

The UK airline magnate says the first Virgin Atlantic flight, which is aimed at making commercial space ship travel a reality, will take place in 10 to 15 months.

“Virgin Galactic is in the lead as far as trying to make commercial space ship travel a reality and we believe the income this kind of travel will generate will make a lot of exciting things possible,” says Branson.

“One of the most exciting things Virgin Galactic will be able to offer cities is point to point travel from city to city at a fraction of the time that it currently takes, so I’m hoping it will be able to get you from Brisbane to London in two and a half hours (a decade from now).

“I want to see the Qantas chairman’s face when the first Virgin planes start taking off for London that only take two and a half hours. The initial price isn’t cheap at $200,000, but it’s $58 million less than it costs to go up in a Russian space ship and it will get more affordable over time.”

Branson says more than 430 people have placed a deposit for the space journey and that by the end of this year 556 passengers will be signed up.

“NASA’s lost a couple of space ships and as a commercial space ship company we have to offer return tickets, otherwise my wife will be angry if I don’t bring my kids back. Our biggest danger at the moment is re-entry,” he says.

20,000 leagues

Branson and his team are currently working on Virgin Oceanic – a submarine taking passengers to the greatest depths of the Earth. It’s an idea he’s not sure will sink or swim.

“The deepest a submarine has ever gotten is about 17,000 feet because below that, the pressure of water is so enormous that it would crush almost anything. And yet the sea goes down 38,000 feet, so what we’ve developed is a submarine to go down to the five deepest places of the world,” he says.

“We’ll know in three weeks whether the submarine will withstand the pressure, which is about 1500 times the pressure on an aeroplane. It will be tested in a pressure chamber and if it’s successful, I will pilot into the Puerto Rican trench.

“Eighty per cent of the world’s species haven’t been discovered yet, so going down there will be eerie, but I think fascinating and we’ll also be filming what we find for a documentary.”

VBA shares remain steady at $0.31 today.

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