American Airlines Throws Down Against United Over the Environment

I wrote the other day in a Forbes.com piece about a bit of a feud between American Airlines and United over the best approach to the environment, the CEO of American calling out United’s biofuel efforts as being largely meaningless compared to American’s investment of newer, more modern and fuel efficient aircraft.

I reviewed a recording of comments by American’s CEO to employees on the subject of what they’re doing to be more environmentally conscious,

I get annoyed by things like you read from United saying they’re the most environmentally conscious. They’re not. They’re flying around average airplanes that are 15 years old. We’re flying around an average fleet that’s 9 years old.

We’re much more environmentally friendly than United Airlines right now because we’ve invested in more fuel efficient aircraft.. They say that about some effort they’re doing with biofuels, so again good for them, not saying they shouldn’t do that. But having one airplane flying around with some biofuel testing as opposed to having a fleet of 1500 airplanes, 500 new airplanes while they’re flying 500 old airplanes around. We’re doing much better things for the environment than they are.

Reader comments that American Airlines was actually reducing CO2 emissions by cancelling more flights than anyone else, it turns out there is real evidence for Parker’s position. Current biofuel technology is simply too resource-intensive to be useful.

[M]any environmentalists are dismissive of biofuels as a long-term solution, particularly because a growing world population will need more food. To limit global warming to a 1.5C increase in temperature would require so much biofuel that it would take up to 7m square kilometres of arable land — roughly the size of Australia — to produce that much feedstock, according to a recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“If you were to replace all today’s aviation fuel with biofuel, with first-generation biofuel, it would be at the expense of 2,100 calories per person per day for everyone on the planet,” says Prof Berners-Lee. “It would take almost all of humankind’s calorific requirements . . . So that is absolutely not a solution.”

Biofuels, then, just aren’t a practical way for airlines to reduce their emissions at this point.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I do not care whether Parker is right or wrong here. I want him to fix his airline and make a legacy that he can be proud of. It’s bad enough he is known for multiple DUIs, does he really want to perish from this earth being known for taking a once reputable airline down with him?

  2. You’re missing the point. Just like solar panels and EVs that are also uneconomical and impractical for most applications without government subsidies, their real purpose is to allow elitist leftists to carry on with their consumption without feeling guilt, and to virtue signal how wonderful and pure they are.

  3. @Jason – He just doesn’t care. If he did, he would have resigned a while back.

    @WR2 – Three points: First off, technology has to have a basis in order to improve over time. Subsidies allow industries to grow while becoming better. Second, solar panels are efficient. Do you have any factual proof that putting solar panels on my roof is environmentally unsound? Lastly, do you think childish insults make you look more informed? As a data point, I’m neither elite nor leftist, so I have no dog in this fight, but acting this way alienates potential allies.

  4. I’m glad to see this empty suit has fixed everything at AA and has moved on to fixing other airlines. I suggest Parker stay in his lane.

  5. @Christian: (1) Subsidies usually promote old outdated technology. Subsidized industries usually fail, once the subsidies are removed. Economics 101. (2) (a) Solar panels are not cost effective, otherwise subsidies would not be needed. WTH: California even had to pass a law forcing people to buy solar panels on new homes, because even with subsidies, many people do not want them. (b) “Environmentally unsound”. Solar panels are complicated electronics whose lifespan is finite. Damage to the environment is caused by manufacturing them. More damage is caused by disposing of them. Universal law of unintended consequences.

    @Christian. You said “Lastly, do you think childish insults make you look more informed?” @WR2, does that sound like an ad hominem insult to you? It does to me. Also, since you (Christian) are arguing for Solar panels, your statement that “I have no dog in this fight” is probably an outright untruth. Besides, why would WR2 even care what you think?

    LOL: It is kind of a grandiose delusion that people think they can save Mother earth by putting solar panels on their roofs. Delusions are fixed beliefs that do not change, even when a person is presented with conflicting evidence. The psychological term for it is delusion disorder.

  6. Amazing that this brought out the RATS (RAcist Trump Supporters) yet again. WR2 and OJS sound like the Koch Brothers. Must be hard to be on the wrong side of history.

  7. Hi UA-NYC (aka the Manhattan Waterbug). Just wondering, I have heard that among the Waterbug community, Men In Black 1 due to its treatment of cockroaches (your sister race) is considered to be racist against cockroaches, Waterbugs, and so forth. Since you are here, I was wondering if you could verify that for the for the record.

  8. ” first-generation biofuel”

    Presumably after biofuel is perfected we’ll get better output, such as every industry.

    Also one could argue that by using older airframes rather than putting them out to pasture and relying on new ones United and of course Delta are being environmentally conscious as airframes/engines/interiors aren’t environmentally free!

  9. I remember when the Bush Administration along with Pelosi passed Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to solve or at least mitigate then then Energy crisis. This introduced among other things increased ethanol in cars. Energy companies came in with shiny presentations about the future of saw grass from swamps in ethanol production. Using corn was just a starter.

    Fast forward to now. The ethanol in gas program is basically a subsidy to farmers. They grow corn, to be be burned in automobiles. I have not heard about saw grass for years. Ethanol is corrosive. That means it cannot be stuck in a pipeline and shipped to the refinery cheaply and safely. So it has to be transported by truck, which is expensive and relatively dangerous. It is harder for cars to burn. Gas with high quantities of ethanol experience lower MPG. It is also not clear that energy used to produce corn based ethanol, is less than the energy ethanol produces when it is burned.

    To quote the September 3, 2019, National Review: “Trump’s support for ethanol may win him votes in Iowa, but federal support for ethanol is a bum deal for Americans.” No kidding. Ethanol was stupid when Bush and Pelosi enacted it. It was stupid when Obama and Boehner continue to support it. It is stupid now. No amount of subsidy will make this boondoggle a good idea.

  10. The only advantage to ethanol is that it is renewable (you can grow more corn, but you can’t kill any more dinosaurs). Me, I drive an electric car fueled by hydropower, inexhaustible unless it permanently stops raining.

  11. @Carleton MacDonald. It takes fossil fuel energy to grow corn. According to some studies, it takes more than one fossil fuel gallons to produce on corn gallon of ethanol. Not a very good renewable scheme.

  12. OJS, you extra triggered today with Walmart no longer selling ammo? Boo hoo, poor RATS sliding off a sinking SS Trump ship.

  13. UA-NYC (AKA: the Waterbug). I have a question for you. I used to argue with my friend from Taiwan that NYC Waterbugs are tougher than Taiwanese cockroaches. Would you like to take a side on that argument?

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