A lot has been made recently of a plan by the European Union to assess fees on airlines landing in EU airports for the carbon dioxide emitted by those aircraft. Many countries outside the EU are not taking kindly to the proposal. The US is one of them, but Russia, China and a few other Asian countries have gone even further in calling for an end to proposals of carbon fees on airlines. Officially the fees took effect on January first, though not all EU countries are expected to begin enforcing them right away.
Countries rally against EU carbon tax on airlines
Delegates from 26 countries opposed to a new EU carbon tax on airlines are meeting in Moscow to consider possible retaliation, amid fears of a trade war.
China, India, Russia and the US are among the countries opposed to the EU fee, which took effect on 1 January.
Critics say the EU has no right to impose taxes on flights to or from destinations outside Europe.
But in December the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU tax on CO2 pollution from aircraft was legal.
The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) creates permits for carbon emissions. Airlines that exceed their allowances will have to buy extra permits, as an incentive to airlines to pollute less.
“Nobody has fought harder than the European Union over the years to get a global deal.
The number of permits is reduced over time, so that the total CO2 output from airlines in European airspace falls.
The EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, said the opponents should work with the EU to create a global scheme to cut aviation pollution.
“Nobody would be happier than the EU if we could get such a global deal,” she told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is just a bad idea. If you’ve concerned about pollution and especially greenhouse gasses, don’t go after aviation. It’s the smallest, highest hanging of the fruit you can pick from. Well under 1% of human generated greenhouse gases come from aviation and yet that relatively small percentage comes with enormous benefits to mankind.
Far more CO2 is generated by processes as low profile and unnoticed as cement manufacture. Additionally, it’s really the height of insanity to burden airlines and passengers in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when most of the electricity generated in Europe comes from fossil fuels. Yet pinching aviation to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has an exceptionally poor cost-benefit ratio when compared to reducing power plant emissions.
Furthermore, the idea that reducing the number of permits over time will reduce pollution by making airlines more efficient is ridiculous. Considering the price of fuel and the fact that airlines pay more for fuel than any other expense, they have already done all things reasonably possible to improve aircraft efficiency. Modern turbofan engines have gotten very good, and while a tiny bit more fuel efficiency may be squeezed out in the years to come, it’s not likely that there’s going to be any development that will magically reduce the amount of fuel required by aircraft.
So why are they doing it? Personally, I think it’s politics plain and simple. Airplanes are conspicuous and everyone knows they burn fuel, but most people are likely unaware that cement manufacture is a major CO2 source. Airline travel may also be cast as a luxury (even though it is increasingly a necessity) and therefore can play into various social ploys.
Really, however, if you were just looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you would focus your energies elsewhere.
Reasons why civil aviation is good, should be encouraged and not burdened by additional costs:
- It’s a huge industry which provides a large number of jobs, many of them skilled and very high paying.
- Many other sectors are heavily dependent on aviation for travel, rapid shipping of products and other important uses of aircraft.
- Tourism is almost completely dependent on aviation and makes up a huge part of the economy of many nations. Innumerable businesses and livelihoods depend on economical travel to exist at all.
- Many areas of the world are entirely dependent on aviation-based tourism and without economical air travel their entire economy will completely disintegrate. These include some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the world which are preserved largely because they draw tourists and, if they didn’t have tourist potential, would probably be destroyed by the locals trying to get by on whatever resources they could recover.
- World travel is educational, mind expanding and results in cultural exchange that cannot otherwise occur.
- When people travel they see the most majestic parts of the world, which would tend to make them want to preserve them.
- Many areas of the world are entirely dependent on aviation for things far beyond tourist travel. For island areas, especially, planes may be the only traveling and of bringing in critical goods like medical supplies and even food.
- When disaster strikes, civil aviation is often pressed into service for evacuation or transport of vital supplies. You want a healthy airline sector in case you ever need to suddenly use it for this.
- The airline business is already extremely cutthroat. Profits margins are razor thin. Airlines file for bankruptcy and are restructured frequently. Even a small additional burden can make a big difference.
- Aircraft are about the safest way possible to travel. If flying becomes more expensive, it becomes more attractive to drive long distances. More people drive, which is more dangerous and thus a net increase in deaths.
- There’s simply no way of reducing the carbon footprint of aircraft by any significant amount other than just not flying as much. Fuel is already the number one expense to airlines, so they already take all reasonable measures to conserve it. There’s really nothing other that can be used to fuel an aircraft other than hydrocarbons. Hydrogen is too low density and requires special handling and storage. Ammonia is only slightly better and batteries are far too heavy.
Reasons why civil aviation is bad, should be discouraged and burdened by additional costs:
- It produces carbon dioxide, although not very much in the grand scheme of things.
This entry was posted on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 at 9:38 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions