A new report by the International Council on Clean Transportation ranks the major airlines according to their fuel efficiency—and for the first time reveals the major gaps that exist between airlines in their fuel use.
For a long time, green consumers have known that air travel is the biggest part of the average individual’s carbon footprint. Consumers have been told that if we want to reduce our carbon footprint and make a personal contribution to curbing climate change, we can fly less.
This may be true, but today’s report shows that we should not let the airlines off the hook. It’s not just a matter of our individual consumer decisions to fly or not to fly: there are efficiency leaders and there are gas guzzlers—and the airlines’ efforts to reduce their climate pollution matter.
Case in point: The airline industry’s worst performers use up to 26 percent more fuel to provide the same levels of service compared to efficiency leaders. Also, on city-to-city routes, the difference between the most- and least-efficient carriers ranged from 9 percent to 87 percent.
Just how friendly are their skies? Not only will Alaska Airlines serve you free beer and wine on its flights, it will fly you to your destination with the greatest fuel efficiency. Fuel efficiency scores by airline for 2010 u.s. domestic operations (higher score means greater efficiency).
Source: U.S. Domestic Airline Fuel Efficiency Ranking 2010, The International Council for Clean Transportation.
The dramatic gaps between the carbon pollution of the leaders versus the laggards illustrates the need to set reasonable standards for aircraft and reign in some of their unnecessary pollution.
For too long, we’ve heard the airline industry proclaim that the airlines are all as efficient as they can be—claiming the cost of fuel and their “razor-thin margins” drive them to do all they can to boost fuel efficiency.
But ICCT’s study shows this isn’t true. The huge differences in efficiency expose the real truth: the airline industry as a whole simply can’t be trusted to voluntarily improve its fuel efficiency; mandatory efficiency standards are required to bring the laggards to pace with the leaders and to reduce the industry’s climate change pollution.
Regulating vehicles to improve fuel efficiency has a proven track record. Fuel economy standards for cars and trucks will nearly double the fuel efficiency of these vehicles, saving more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. Similar standards are necessary to ensure that all of America’s airlines are operating at optimal levels of efficiency.
The EPA has the opportunity to put these standards in place. A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice established that the EPA has an obligation to determine whether carbon pollution from aircraft endangers public health. If it does, Congress requires that the EPA set standards to control that pollution. The EPA has dragged its heels to avoid taking these steps. This new evidence that there are clear efficiency gains to be made on aviation should convince the agency that successful pollution control measures are not only feasible but essential.