The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now starting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from airplane engines, one more anti-pollution action after ground transportation and power plants. The EPA wants to derive authority from the Clean Air Act to control “air pollution that causes climate change and endangers public health and welfare,” but it is not a new rule alone. It is seeking help from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is quite disturbing because this organization is more or less run by the airline industry.
The transportation industry always complains at the beginning when there are new rules, claiming that they are cost too high. But after a while, we see more innovations than was present before. Electric cars and plug-in hybrids probably wouldn’t be developing at this rate if fuel economy standards weren’t on a fairly steep ramp over the coming years, and if emission regulations weren’t being tightened.
Right now, planes represent about 11% of emissions from the U.S. transportation sectors, but the industry is expected to continue growing. And while there’s a clear path for ground transportation to decarbonize, things are more difficult for planes, so it’s best to get regulated right now. One possible destination for the industry would be much more efficient planes that are powered by truly carbon-neutral advanced biofuels.