Market Forces Driving Greenhouse Gas Reductions in Airlines

April 2, 2008

Market Forces Driving Greenhouse Gas Reductions in Airlines

Sensenbrenner: Industry’s Emissions are Minimal

Washington, D.C., April 2, 2008 - U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, made the following statement during today’s hearing titled, “From the Wright Brothers to the Right Solutions: Curbing Soaring Aviation Emissions:” 

“I want to thank the Chairman for scheduling this hearing today and I look forward to learning more about this topic. 

“Of my many curiosities about this topic, perhaps the most pressing is why the aviation industry is a major focus in the global warming debate. 

“By all measures, aviation produces just a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases. In the U.S., aviation accounts for only 3 percent of emissions, compared to electricity generation, ground transportation, industry and agriculture, all of which produce many times more greenhouse gases. 

“Furthermore, the aviation industry has been doing a good job of improving fuel efficiency, and it didn’t take heavy-handed government regulations such as cap-and-trade to make it happen.  In the past four years, U.S. airlines have improved fuel efficiency by 11 percent, mostly due to the market-driven pressures of the high price of oil and the lower value of the dollar. 

“This is positive progress, and the industry deserves commendation for this improvement. Despite these numbers, the European Union wants to include aviation in its emission trading scheme, which would clearly throw additional costs onto the airline industry. I don’t understand why government regulators want to punish an industry that is already making good progress without the pressure of regulations. 

“Then again, I don’t understand how hampering the economy with regulatory schemes like cap-and-trade is the proper way to confront climate change. 

“Last month, an E.U. commissioner said that if the U.S. didn’t join the E.U. emission trading scheme or apply a similar program to U.S. airlines by 2010, E.U. states could begin denying incoming U.S. flights in 2012.  

“I wonder if this threat also applies to India and China, each of which has a growing airline industry to meet the demand of their growing economies. In fact, testimony today will show these two countries will build 100 new airports over the next decade to meet the demand. And no, India and China do not have emission trading systems of their own. 

“There may be advances in clean fuel technology that help reduce airlines’ greenhouse gas output even further. As I have said many times, technological advancement must be part of any plan to confront climate change. However, I do not believe that any advances in fuel technology should come at the expense of safety. There are already some concerns that biofuels can cause engines to stall, which is a safety risk I believe is too great, especially considering the airline’s minimal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. 

“If large-scale changes are needed in the aviation industry, the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization is the best place to address these questions, and it isn’t often that I embrace a U.N. organization. However, in this case, the U.N. is taking a more thoughtful approach on aviation emissions and technology than the European Union. 

“When it comes to global warming, many people cry that the sky is falling. But I worry that if we make careless changes to the airline industry, it will be the planes that are falling. I believe it’s more prudent at this point to recognize the good work airlines are doing, before we force changes that could jeopardize both the safety and economic health of the industry.” 


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