Things are not always as they seem…

December 19, 2011 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

by Tony

I read with interest a recent article suggesting that the European Union was about to start making foreign airlines pay for their carbon emissions. The program has been widely criticized by many including the Air Transport Association, and the International Air Transport Association, which represents 230 airline across the globe, for many reasons as you will read in the piece.

Now putting the scientific discussion of the impact of carbon emissions aside for a moment, I don’t think anyone would disagree that air transportation is a significant driver of the world’s economy, and beyond the economic impact, has changed the world for the better. But for as much good as it does, air transportation is one of the most heavily regulated and taxed industries, and this new regulation is yet another example. EU officials admit as much and recognize that this program will ultimately cost consumers more (as much as $16US per long-haul flight, according to The New York Times), but they simply suggest the airline pass the cost of their emissions off on passengers, as they do with fuel price increases.

Now anytime CarryingOn hears the word “price increase” we get concerned, but the whole carbon emissions issue really came home for me this past week.

I was flying to MSP on Delta 2119, an 810am departure from LGA. The flight was full, the boarding typical for New York, with lots of crowding and a few “we haven’t called your group yet” boarding infractions, but was otherwise routine. Having logged a few miles in my day, I’m usually not that interested when the various in-flight announcement are made, not because they aren’t important, rather because I know most of them by heart, but on this particular day they caught my attention. Our MD88 aircraft was piloted by Captain William J. Botella, who during his normal announcements also made some very interesting comments that made me think of the EU carbon emission story I had read a few days earlier.

What Captain Botella said was the following:

The MD88 with 130 passengers, would use 2,730 gallons of fuel over the 1,200 mile trip between LGA and MSP.

By contrast, to carry 130 passengers in automobiles (assuming 2 per car, and a 20 Miles Per Gallon vehicle), would consume 3,900 gallons of fuel.

So by flying, we saved 1,170 gallons of fuel, not to mention that we all got there in 2½ hours versus the 20 hours it would have taken had we driven non-stop at 60 MPH (and that doesn’t include a few Waffle Houses stops we would inevitably make along the way).  And the good Captain didn’t even talk about any cargo that might have been onboard, cargo that otherwise would have been on trucks that burn even more fuel.

His comments got me thinking that maybe this air transportation thing isn’t so bad for carbon emissions after all, particularly when you look at it as Captain Botella suggested. Sure, you can take the position that any carbon emission is bad (and again science aside), but does anybody really think we can stop emissions altogether? The answer is no, but in this case maybe there is a different perspective we should take.  One that considers the alternative, because I don’t know about you but one thing I don’t think we need is another tax on our industry, so I’ll close by quoting the old Beatle classic Taxman, which if you don’t remember went like this:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

… and will add my own new verse to help shed some light on this one as only CarryingOn can.

If you fly today, I’ll tax the ride.

If you will not pay, you’ll have to drive.

If you drive your car, the fumes will flow,

Even more than if you flew you know.

Feel free to sing along, and maybe we all karaoke it with our favorite Congressman.

Entry filed under: Tony D'Astolfo, Tony's thoughts, User Experience. Tags: , , , , , .

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