Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson is calling for international commercial aviation efficiency standards to spark development of jet fuel-saving technologies.
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, CEO Scott Carson explained that “it's not often that an industry asks for additional regulation, but Boeing, GE and other airplane and engine manufacturers are convinced that a fuel-efficiency standard for new airplanes is an effective way to drive the development of fuel-saving technologies."
Carson specifically advocates for an international efficiency standard for new airplane designs, similar to the U.S. standard in place for new cars and trucks called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards.
Carson notes that “historically, fuel has been the airlines' second-biggest operating expense next to labor. Last year, with oil reaching $140 a barrel, fuel costs even outstripped labor costs, rising to 40% of total airline operating expenses.”
Airlines would obviously like to trim those costs, and a fuel efficiency standard would help by holding plane manufacturers to a common goal for minimum efficiency. But it would be naïve to think that Boeing and the other companies calling for aviation efficiency standards are acting purely out of concern for the environment and climate. These vocal industry advocates would surely play a central role in crafting the regulation to benefit their companies, and their profit margins would benefit as airlines switch to buying the more fuel-efficient jets.
But a well-designed standard – ideally one based on the science of aviation emissions’ role in driving climate change – would go a long way to reduce the carbon footprint of the manufacturers, airlines and consumers who would fly on them. The devil will be in the details of any federal or international regulation designed to address the problem.
In his opinion piece, Carson also urges the U.S. government to continue funding for NextGen, the Federal Aviation Administration's experimental air traffic control system, designed to maximize efficiency and reduce fuel consumption by easing aviation traffic congestion and shaving speed off fuel-guzzling descents. And Carson is sure to tout efforts that Boeing has made to address carbon emissions, including work on a lighter 787 model and experimenting with biofuels such as algae and camelina for jet fuels.
According to Carson, advanced biofuels “performed extremely well” in Boeing’s test flights. The demonstrations confirmed that advanced biofuels have a lower freezing point and higher energy content per gallon than petroleum fuels – both critical characteristics for commercial aviation. Carson calls advanced biofuels “the ultimate answer to aviation's carbon-emissions challenge.”
“Establishing an international fuel-efficiency standard, modernizing air-traffic management, and commercializing an aviation biofuels industry would seriously address the issue of climate change. Our industry is eager to take on this challenge, but we need government help to make it happen,” Carson wrote.
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