Aircraft emissions are the new target of the EPA - and we love it!
This summer, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final report that concluded emissions from airplanes do cause damage to the environment, and are now on course to eventually create standards for greenhouse emissions caused by air travel.
The “endangerment finding” from the EPA states that air pollution from airplanes endangers human health by contributing to climate change.
At this point, it seems like a small ripple in a very large pond. Aircraft emissions are estimated to cause about 3 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States each year, according to Bloomberg. However, that number is expected to rise as air travel increases by about 5 percent each year.
“The EPA’s challenge now is to ensure that its limits are great enough to make a difference,” a Bloomberg editorial stated. “The agency says its rules will be “at least as stringent” as those being developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which call for new aircraft to use just 4 percent less fuel than the average plane uses today, starting in 2028.”
The EPA has not yet set a schedule to begin forming regulations for emissions from aircraft, but the report is the first step toward that process.
According to the EPA, aircraft account for 3 percent of emissions in the United States and 12 percent of emissions from the transportation sector of the economy. Aircraft, according to the EPA, are the biggest source of carbon emissions not yet subject to federal government emission standards.
Similar reports have been issued in the past about light and heavy-duty automobile engines (in 2009), electric utility generation units (in 2015) and oil and gas exploration and production (in 2016).
Aircraft that would be considered for regulation include commercial airplanes, smaller jet aircraft and large turboprop airplanes, such as the ATR 72. Helicopters and military aircraft were not included in the findings.
In making the report, the EPA was taking a step recommended in the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was signed in December 2015.
In the agreement, countries are asked to develop regulations that will reduce the amount of carbon emissions from aircraft. The goal is to keep global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above the temperatures in the pre-industrial age.
It’s a cause supported by a majority of the world’s leading scientists, who have been saying for decades that part of the cause of rising global temperatures is manmade carbon dioxide emissions.
As the EPA considers regulations on aircraft emissions in the U.S., the International Civil Aviation Organization is working on regulations that will govern international air travel. As noted by Bloomberg, they are considering a proposal that requires aircraft to use 4 percent less fuel.
It is not known when the EPA might propose regulations on airplane emissions, but they could come as early as January 2017, before Barack Obama leaves the White House at the end of his second term.