Aircraft emissions – a little hope on the horizon

Emissions from aircraft and shipping are impossible to control under present international law. They are unregulated and will continue to be unregulated unless an international agreement is signed under which each of the nations of the world agrees to charge an aviation fuel tax and a shipping fuel tax. Negotiations involving over 160 nations have not yet started and there are some many vested interests in these fiercely competitive industries that I cannot be optimistic about aviation and shipping emissions being controlled in the foreseeable future. I hope I am wrong.

It is not all bad news. Boeing’s new 747-8 Intercontinental airliner has 16% netter fuel economy than its direct predecessor the 747-400 which will result in 16% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than the 747-400. The first planes will not start flying until September 2011.

A reduction of 16% does not sound like much, but it is significant and very welcome. Aircraft builders are now looking for even better fuel efficiencies from aircraft that they are in the course of designing.

Aircraft use aviation fuel taxiing to and from the stands but the German Aerospace Centre has developed a new electric tractor which can haul planes around airports at a significant savings in emissions compared to using the plane’s engines.

Eventually the cost of oil will become increasing important in the aviation industry and this will create a pressing need for more efficient engines which burn less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases. Building a new aircraft engine is not a quick job, and the existing fleets will be run until they are worn out.

One area in which emissions could be saved is by reducing the time that aircraft spend in the air circling while waiting for a landing slot. New runways or fewer flights are the only ways I can think of to reduce this source of emissions, and neither seems likely in the present circumstances.

With climate change every little saving helps.


2 Responses

  1. This policy although looking good on paper will be just like giving more petrol and more matches to the arsenist to play with where air quality is concerned.

    The results will be a slight to no improvement at all, the larger capacity of the super liners will need more power thus more pollution and a sky full of expensive emmissions and a bank account full of taxed monies for those who make up the new laws.

    On the electric tractor front, how much worse has it got to get in the skies for the worst polluter of particulates like coal fired power station, who make the electricity to pull the planes around.

    Again a policy made by the same people who own the power stations and governments in another fine mess of the skies and more coffers in their banks.

    Its time to wake up and see the real inconvenient truths being thrown around while the money continues to pour in
    and the skies getting darker but not by the invisible commodity we cannot see, but will all end up all paying more for.

    The motto should read, C you coming 2 and thank you.

    • I agree that the electric tractors simply transfer pollution to the power station, but the amount of emissions from aircraft kerosene needed to move an aircraft during taxiing is significantly greater than those from electric tractors.

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