Emissions and fuel consumption by US airlines fell last year compared to 2000, reports ATA
Fri 5 Sept 2008 – US airlines emitted just over 5 million fewer tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2007 than in 2000, according to the 2008 Economic Report just published by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), whilst carrying 20.4% more passenger and cargo traffic. The trade organization, whose airline members make up 90% of all US traffic, says this follows a 3% drop in fuel consumption achieved through the retirement of older, less fuel-efficient aircraft, winglet retrofitting, reduced aircraft weight and more efficient operational procedures.
The report says US airlines improved their fuel efficiency by 110% between 1978 and 2007, resulting in savings of 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. Last year, the ATA approved a plan to further limit emissions with a commitment by its member airlines to improve fuel efficiency by another 30% between 2005 and 2025, with an estimated emissions saving of 1.2 billion tonnes.
ATA believes a further 10 to 15% more savings in emissions could be achieved through modernization of the US air traffic management (ATM) system to reduce delays and congestion. The report says the failure to enact the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) was causing “a major drag on the airline industry’s efforts to reduce unnecessary emissions”. It called for leadership in introducing a ‘NowGen’ concept that would “leverage NextGen capabilities in the very near term to reduce congestion and enable new capacity, targeting first the most constrained regions of our national airspace system”.
The report quotes FAA statistics that reveal the number of people in the United States affected by aircraft noise has diminished by 94% since 1975.
The report also called for the US Congress to restore funding to NASA and FAA aviation environmental research and development programmes, which, it says, has been cut by around 50% in the past 10 years. It also said the US government should refrain from imposing additional taxes and charges on airlines that would siphon funds that would otherwise be used to invest in new aircraft and other emissions- and noise-reducing measures.
However, James C. May, ATA’s President and CEO, conceded in his introduction to the report that new technology investments by airlines and government were no longer as certain as they had seemed recently. “The unprecedented and unrelenting run-up in fuel prices, combined with a deteriorating global economy, have halted the industry’s recovery,” he said. “The harsh financial climate and the threat of more costly fees and taxes on air transportation create a far darker prospect for further shrinking aviation’s environmental footprint.”
According to ATA’s statistics, the number of passengers carried by US airlines last year totalled 769.2 million compared to 744.2 million in 2006, an increase of 3.35%. Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs) increased by 4.04% and Available Seat Miles (ASMs) by 3.14%.
Fuel Efficiency (RTMs/Gal.)
Traffic (Million RTMs)
Fuel Consumption (Million Galls.)
CO2 Emissions * (Billion Pounds)
CO2 Emissions * (Million Tonnes)
* EPA estimates that a gallon of jet fuel generates 20.89 pounds (9.48kg) of CO2 emissions (Source: ATA, Bureau of Transportation Statistics)