The last fortnight has seen the Japanese recommence their whaling operations, the Sustainable Innovation Forum 15 begin in Paris, and the tipping point of a 1 degree celsius increase threshold crossed in the Earth’s average temperature.
If anything, at least climate concerns are back in the mainstream media – how long for remains the problem. Ground is being made however: Bill Gates has just announced a multi-billion dollar clean energy drive with a consortium of cash-rich CEOs in tow, including Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson. At the same time, Morocco has opened a solar plant the size of 35 football pitches, with the aim of generating 42% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
What does all this have to do with footballer Flamini?
When a footballer is in the news, generally speaking it’s for all the wrong reasons. From mammoth salaries, biting opponents or womanising (to name but a few), the lifestyle often associated with the footballing elite isn’t always pretty.
Unless of course you are Mathieu Flamini. The 31-year-old Frenchman plies his trade at Arsenal, with a reputation as a midfield General, snapping into tackles and breaking up play. However, it recently emerged that Flamini has a secret life off the pitch, and for once it’s one that should be dramatically celebrated, and not just by football fans.
“Not even my family knew anything about it. My parents did not know about it until about a year ago.”
Flamini has just announced he has developed a breakthrough in biochemical processing which carries a very real chance of revolutionising the energy sector and reducing our utter dependence on fossil fuels.
It all began back in 2008 when Flamini ended his first spell with Arsenal to join Italian side AC Milan. There he met and became close friends with Pasquale Granata, 32, an economics graduate who shared the midfielder’s passion for addressing environmental concerns.
Flamini, by this point, was a world renowned footballer with a pay cheque to match. He spent millions funding research and development, finding and fitting a factory in Italy even before they could begin running years worth of costly trials.
Together they formed GFBiochemicals, which claims to have discovered a way to produce levulinic acid (LA) – an organic compound that could be used as a precursor to biofuels – on an industrial scale.
“It’s a molecule identified by the US Department of Energy as one of the 12 molecules with the potential to replace petrol in all its forms.”
Based in Caserta, Italy, the GFBiochemicals plant directly employs 80 people and contracts around 400 to aid synthesising LA from biomass waste created in corn and wood production.
It would be foolish to consider this is the Holy Grail of climate change, but make no mistake: the implications of mass production of LA have an estimated market worth of £20billion – this is big business; big positive business. Even so, Flamini has already made it clear that this isn’t about financial gain, as when he initially decided to fund the project out of his own pocket there was no guarantee that it would make it to market.
It’s a breath of fresh air to see a footballer with genuine off the pitch concerns, especially considering the scope and wider reaching implications of what Levulinic Acid could mean in our battle against global warming.
Having only recently revealed his involvement, Flamini gave his first video interview (of course in an Arsenal shirt) detailing more about the project.