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Environment Subcommittee

Members

  • Bryan Bedford (Subcommittee Chair)
  • Juan Alonso
  • Nicole Pisaecki
  • Cynthia Egnotovich
  • Raul Regalado

Background

In the last several decades, there has been a six-fold increase in the mobility provided by the U.S. air transportation system at the same time the aviation industry has made impressive improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency and noise reduction.  Despite aviation’s relatively small environmental impact and the notable environmental progress achieved to date, there is still a compelling need to reduce aviation’s impact—especially in the five key areas of aircraft noise, air quality, climate, water quality, energy.

Environmental impacts represent a key challenge to the nation’s ability to accommodate increases in the demand for air transportation.  Greater levels of environmental impacts and associated energy issues will create limitations on the capacity and flexibility of NextGen, unless they are adequately addressed.  Improving environmental protection and meeting the energy challenge are vital elements of securing the future economic health and sustainability of aviation. Furthermore, environmental issues—especially those related to climate change—are increasingly shaping aviation’s future growth internationally.

Technology Solutions

Airframe and engine technology improvements have been responsible for the majority of gains in reducing aviation’s environmental footprint since the 1970s, and are needed to contribute to effective future improvements.  New technologies are necessary to reduce aircraft fuel burn, carbon dioxide emissions, criteria air pollutants, and noise.  FAA’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) technology program and NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) program seek to accelerate development and introduction of new technologies.  The level of investment and time required to introduce innovations may not allow us to realize the environmental benefits of technology fast enough to sustain aviation growth.

Initial Questions

  • What actions can serve to support and accelerate research and development of cleaner, quieter, more fuel efficient aircraft technologies?
  • What steps might government and industry support to accelerate the introduction and penetration of new technologies into the U.S. commercial fleet?
  • How much does success in new technologies depend on appropriate financial mechanisms, and what might those be?

Sustainable Renewable Aviation Fuels

Concerns about high fuel prices, energy supply and security, and the contribution of aircraft greenhouse gas emissions to climate change are rising.  Although aircrafts are expected to be dependent on liquid hydrocarbon fuels for the foreseeable future, sustainable alternative jet fuels offer promise.  Such fuels can reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions and potentially decrease fuel price instability. These fuels may also increase energy security and availability, and support green jobs.

Aviation has been identified as a key market for alternative fuels by the President’s Interagency Working Group on Biofuels.  Under the leadership of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, aviation is the first transportation sector to move forward with a serious industry commitment to convert their fuel supply to alternative fuels. In 2009, the standard-setting organization ASTM International approved a new fuel specification that allows alternative fuels to be used as jet fuels. Despite strong interest and efforts, there are many challenges to sustainable alternative fuel deployment, and private financing for alternative jet fuel production facilities has not materialized.

Initial Questions

  • How soon is the aviation industry prepared to use alternative fuels on a wide-scale basis, and how much depends on the current price of oil?
  • What actions by either government or industry, or both, would support and accelerate commercial scale production and deployment of sustainable alternative aviation fuels?
  • How much does success in alternative fuels depend on appropriate financial mechanisms, and what might these be?

International Challenges

Internationally accepted, cost-beneficial solutions to environmental challenges are vital for a global industry like aviation.  Divisive debates over aircraft noise and climate change issues have dominated recent meetings of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly.  Different regions of the world have evolved distinct views on the need, type, scope, and application of measures to address these issues.  The U.S. Congress is debating energy and climate change legislative proposals that may influence broad climate change policies nationally and internationally.

Initial Questions

  • Are there specific steps the U.S. should take to foster building consensus across a diverse international community through ICAO to address environmental challenges?
  • How should the U.S. deal with various national, regional and international efforts to develop market-based measures that may apply to U.S. airlines?

Record of Meeting

Updated: Monday, May 20, 2013