RJH writes...

The reason no one drops $2 billion into a new refinery to increase the supply of car/airplane fuel is that it is not profitable. It makes more sense to make investment in exploration and production rather than pay a fortune for a doubtful return within the environmental mine field that is refining. That is why the last US refinery was built in 1976.

Yet Sir Richard Branson (pictured below) sees a profitable way through this financial conundrum. He is pushing for talks with the UK finance minister, Gordon Brown, about constructing a new refinery. After all, as Sir Richard says, "The big oil companies are making extortionate profits out of the current oil price" and consumers are crying out for a Samaritan. Or, Gordon, two.

The idea is bound to have at its centre Other People's Money (otherwise why speak to the government). Conveniently, that is what Chancellor Brown controls - the people in this case being UK taxpayers. The Debonair Fox may have spotted a chance for Mr Brown to again taxeth away from many and giveth to another. Another like, say, the Virgin Team. And, who knows, Mr Brown may well be able to create a few more public sector jobs for the project while he's at it.

One day, eventually, the right hand and the left hand will communicate. In the meantime, be on the look out for another outbreak of Millennium Dome Syndrome.

Asked for comment on the topic, well-known power-boater, ballonist, aircraft proprietor and altruist Basil Brush (also pictured below, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sir Richard) said:

"Boom! Boom! Marvelous idea! I'll definitely be keeping the Land Rover on the road!"

[Editor: Cynicism is a terrible thing]

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