Sept. 22, 2006 — -- How did British billionaire Sir Richard Branson decide to pledge about $3 billion to developing alternative energy sources?
Former Vice President Al Gore convinced him over breakfast one morning.
Branson, in fact, admits to being skeptical about global warming in the past.
"I was skeptical, but I've met a lot of scientists. I've read a lot of books. I've had Al Gore spend two hours at my home giving me his personal time to convince me, and sadly, I'm now convinced that the world has a serious problem," Branson said today on "Good Morning America."
Gore, who appeared on the show with Branson, said he didn't have to strong-arm or lay a guilt trip on the transportation and music mogul.
"We just talked about the facts of the situation," Gore said. "You know, all of us have problems absorbing the reality of what we're facing with this. It's really a planetary emergency."
Gore added that there was time to reverse the course of global warming, but not much.
"Scientists tell us we may have as little as 10 years in which to make a big, good start on this, but we do have time," Gore said. "What's needed is commitment and courage. … Business leaders are, frankly, way ahead of the politicians in both parties on this."
Branson has committed to investing 100 percent of the profits from his Virgin Group's transportation sectors, including train companies and five airlines, over the next 10 years -- a sum expected to hit about $3 billion.
"Basically, it's a commitment to try to find alternative fuels, for planes, for cars, for all forms of transport and ultimately, obviously, to take on the oil companies," Branson said. "If we don't take on the oil companies, we will not be able to replace the oil, which is dirty, with clean fuel."
Branson's motives may be more than altruistic. He's hoping his investment will eventually make him a profit.
"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," Branson said.
Gore said that he, too, hoped Branson would turn a profit from the plan.
"Sir Richard Branson is the rare individual who captures and commands attention, and he has the guts to do something bold, and a lot of people are going to follow his lead," Gore said.