Will the aviation industry ever be able to “go green”?

This article focuses on the airline industry in the UK and the feasibility of making it less environmentally taxing. To maintain their projected goals of reducing carbon emissions, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband has said that airline emissions can be maintained at their current levels if all other carbon emissions are cut by 90%. The problem lies in the fact that huge cuts would have to be made yearly within the aviation industry just to keep the airline CO2 emissions STATIC, much less decrease them. The article cites facts such as U.S. airlines burning 50 million gallons of kerosene everyday; a fuel source which is currently exempt from government taxation. If aviation fuel was taxed, this article estimates that the cost of airline travel would increase by 50% and drastically decrease CO2 emissions- mostly because so few people will be able to afford to fly. This will of course have an extremely detrimental effect on airline profits and could sound the death knoll for the entire industry.

There are a few bright spots on the horizon for this situation however. In 2012, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme will expand to include aviation emissions, which will place a cap on how much CO2 the industry can emit without having to pay damages. How exactly this market will be controlled is still being debated, but it seems likely that the caps will be auctioned off to independent companies who will then be allowed to trade amongst themselves and with the larger carbon market as a whole so that if cuts can’t be made in aviation, they’ll be made elsewhere. Several airlines including British Airways, Air New Zealand and Japan Air have been experimenting with “carbon neutral” biofuel mixes utilizing natural oils which have the potential to cut carbon emissions by 60%. However, concerns that exist for other biofuels would present themselves in this scenario as well- land currently being used to grow food crops or naturally occurring forests could potentially be cleared to provide more land for growing biofuel crops, an idea which isn’t really sustainable at all. I feel that few things I’ve read have captured this catch-22 as efficiently as this statement by Rupert Fausset, Forum for the Future’s sustainable transport expert: “An algal pond the size of Belgium could meet all aviation’s current fuel needs, but then we’d be buying all our chocolate from the Swiss.”


One Response to Will the aviation industry ever be able to “go green”?

  1. […] Cheap and Easy way to Reduce Aviation Emissions Earlier this semester Beth made a post about aviation emissions and elucidated the possible mechanisms to make flying more green. […]

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