How Green are Branson’s Billions?

So, thrill-seeking billionaire Richard Branson has decided to donate a huge chunk of money (over the next 10 years) to fight climate change.
Here’s the story, from Forbes: Branson’s $3 Billion Donation

…Branson announced that he’ll hand over all profits from his airline and train business to research and develop renewable-energy initiatives. What’s that mean? Branson estimates he’ll end up donating $3 billion over ten years.

Accoding to the BBC,

The funds will be invested in schemes to develop new renewable energy technologies, through an investment unit called Virgin Fuels.

Branson’s espoused reason for this? (From Forbes…)

I’ve got children; hopefully I’ll have grandchildren. Everything I’ve read about the world shows we need to reinvest in new sources of fuel. I’m in a position to do something.

Sounds like a nice bit of philanthropy. Now, there is a bit of a catch. Branson isn’t just giving this money to charity. He’s planning on investing it in companies seeking to develop cleaner fuels, renewable sources of energy, etc.

Branson is quoted byABC News:

Obviously what we hope is to generate profit from that so we can then carry on reinvesting it and building a powerful company, which can invest … in more fuels

OK, cynics: ready, set, GO!

“Ohhhhh,” quoth the cynic, “he’s not actually giving money away, he’s just investing it in hopes of making more money!”

But wait.

Will Branson get some press for this? Sure.
Will Branson’s ego get stroked? Of course.
Will he profit from his investment? Who knows. Maybe. It’s a gamble.

The key, I think, is this: Branson clearly has some cash at his disposal. (And by “some”, I mean “lots of.”) He can invest it in lots of things. He can invest it in Exxon (which would be a much safer investment). Or in the tobacco industry. Or in expanding his mansion. Or in solid-gold toilets for his private jet(s). Intstead, he’s decided to invest a huge chunk of change in something worthwhile.
So, is Branson going to get praised just as if he were handing money over directly to some charity? I sure hope so.

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