I’ve started following more closely efforts to reduce airline greenhouse emissions so today’s story that Virgin Atlantic will test fly an airliner powered by biofuel generated caught my attention. My local paper The Seattle Post Intelligencer gave this a lot of ink, as did the Dot Earth blog in the New York Times.
My increased interest follows my recent epiphany that air travel is the single largest contributor to my personal carbon footprint. I found this out when I recently calculated my footprint using two different free online calculators: Carbon Footprint and TerraPass. While the results were somewhat different (accounted for, presumably, by differences in inputs as well as calculation assumptions), the conclusion about air travel was startlingly clear. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I put about 6,000 miles on my car each year, yet I fly, by Terra Pass’s calculations, more than 46,000 miles between regular business travel, two trips to Atlanta to see family each year, plus one international trip just for the fun of it. Holy mackerel! So much for my puny efforts to walk more and stop using disposable water bottles.
I applaud Richard Branson’s high-profile efforts. He has pledged billions of dollars to find energy sources for transportation that don’t contribution to global warming (and presumably DO contribute to oil independence). There’s tremendous controversy about the viability of biofuels of course with a sister story in the NYT today about banning some biofuels in Europe. But at least he’s trying.
In the meantime, airlines and manufacturers are scrambling to increase the fuel efficiency of their existing fleets – economically motivated by oil at $90 barrel plus. That’s great news for my friends at Naverus, whose technology lets airlines save fuel by flying highly efficient routes.