US airlines claim green progress

The Air Transport Association of America has testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that industry operational improvement and technological advancements have resulted in the U.S. airline industry representing just 2 percent of all greenhouse gases, as compared to 25 percent for the balance of the transportation sector, while the industry continues to push forward with even more environmentally friendly programs.  ATA President and CEO James C. May presented new data to the committee that underscored the industry’s ongoing commitment to protecting the environment. 
“Commercial aviation in the United States is demonstrably committed to protecting the environment,” said May. “Over the past 30 years, we have improved our fuel efficiency by 110 percent, resulting in 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide savings - roughly equivalent to taking 18.7 million cars off the road each of those years. This is no small achievement, given that commercial aviation is essential to our economy and supports nearly 9 percent of U.S. employment.” May added that the airlines are “key to driving a more environmentally efficient economy, optimizing global value chains and creating greater social and economic opportunities for people.” 
The industry has achieved its impressive environmental record while demand for air transportation continues to increase. May illustrated how the growth of the U.S. economy is strongly influenced by the growth of the commercial aviation industry. In 2005 alone, the commercial aviation industry drove $1.1 trillion in economic activity, contributing 5.2 percent of U.S gross economic output. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics recently assessed that in 2006, 5.3 percent of the total value of international merchandise trade was shipped by air and that air shipments accounted for 32.4 percent of the value of all exports, more than any other transportation sector.
May reiterated his call for Congress to work collaboratively with the commercial airline industry, citing the need to modernize the aging air traffic control system, reinvigorate environmental aeronautics R&D programs and spur further commercial development of alternative jet fuels. 
“Modernizing air traffic management would result in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in emissions, in addition to the commitment of ATA member airlines to reduce emissions by at least 30 percent by 2025,” said May. 
Commercial aviation’s call for congressional action on alternative fuels is significant, considering its commitment to bring alternatives to market. In April, ATA issued “Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels: The ATA Commitment,” its guiding principles for reducing carbon output, conserving fuel and finding environmentally friendly jet fuel alternatives. ATA is an active co-sponsor of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), which aims to achieve certifications for a 50 percent synthetic fuel by the end 2008 and of bio-jet fuels by 2013.
Addressing the need for Congress to work with the industry to meet environmental challenges, May noted the importance of calibrating any climate change-related legislation so that it is not counterproductive to the industry’s reinvestments into the operational innovations and technologies that improve fuel efficiency. 
“To continue our fuel efficiency and other advances, we must have the capital to invest,” said May. “Punitive economic measures that siphon funds out of our industry would severely threaten progress. While we do not believe that a further economic measure - such as a cap-and-trade requirement - is necessary for aviation, if such a measure were to be applied, it should be carefully calibrated to take key considerations into account. These include allocation of allowances to reflect aviation’s fuel efficiency achievements to date, reinvestment of proceeds into aviation and accounting for the reality that aviation is a global business.”