Sunday, when Boeing unveiled their 787 Dreamliner, BBC News had this to report:
While even environmentalists welcome the attempts to make planes greener, they don’t think the 787 is going to do much to reduce the impact of aviation on climate change. They believe that fuel-efficient planes are simply going to allow airlines to carry the same number of passengers, more cheaply. And that allows them to cut ticket prices – which in turn will encourage more of us to fly.
The new design uses carbon fiber composite instead of aluminum construction, so it is lighter, allows for better cabin air pressure and quality, bigger windows, and improved fuel efficiency. According to Boeing, the result is a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions over the standard midsize jets, using just one gallon of fuel per seat per 100 miles of travel. At that rate, some trips currently made by car would certainly be faster, cheaper and more fuel-efficiently made by plane. And environmentalists are grumbling? Who are these environmentalists? (Presumably, they also favor capping fuel economy standards so that we aren’t tempted to drive increasingly fuel-efficient cars?) The BBC news report implies that the National Environmental Trust was the source of the Boeing 787 pessimism, but I didn’t find anything on their website to that effect. I was also relieved, a bit, by an internet search that mostly turned up statements from environmentalists praising the new design. (More than one half-facetiously mentioned it would be a great way to get to the next Live Earth concert.) A contrary voice was the Coventry (UK) Green Party, who complain that the Dreamliner isn’t a “green victory” because, among other reasons, the factory used to build it is the largest building in the world. Luddites, please, hitch your wagon elsewhere. Strange reports from the BBC aside, environmentalists everywhere should celebrate technologies that simultaneously improve mobility and environmental performance.