Flight Not So Harmful

Given the left’s increasing demonization of the airline industry for its environmental impact, one may question “just how bad is it?” If a single class modern aircraft can achieve 150 passenger miles per gallon of fuel, how would that compare to putting those passengers in modern compact cars?

With their luggage and carry on items, one could reasonably fit three people into each of such vehicles. The vehicle would need to achieve 50 miles per gallon to equal aircraft efficiency. Passenger car fuel efficiency is specified under ideal and lightly loaded conditions; it seems unlikely that passenger cars could exceed aircraft efficiency.

Most aircraft also carry cargo, which in all fairness should be divided among the passenger cars. This cargo would further reduce the fuel economy of the vehicle. One should not forget that for a flight from this left coast of the United States to the other left coast, passengers arrive in five hours instead of five days. There is the value of one’s time to be accounted for.

The environmentalists may argue that air travel should not be compared to compact cars, because they want vehicle ownership to end as well. Instead, air travel should be compared to public trains. But aircraft routes are not constrained by two-dimensional geography (aircraft fly in altitude “flight levels”) and expensive, immovable infrastructure (rails) as trains are. In addition, air travel is definitely much faster and far more flexible in adapting to changes in passenger volume and city pairs.

The environmentalists will not be mollified until every last molecule of CO2 emitted is eliminated. They will fight to end all air travel even though it is responsible for only 2 percent of the CO2 emitted globally, and in spite of air travel’s huge positive impact on nearly all industries and most people’s lives.

The facts presented here should be refined, and then expressed as forcefully, widely, and constantly, to the consuming and voting public as the environmentalist’s views are, so that a correct balance is achieved.

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