How Bad Are Private Jets For The Environment?

In the last two years, the private aviation industry has unprecedentedly spiked. Although a small percentage can afford the luxurious and hassle-free mode of traveling, more jets have taken to the skies, leading to concerns over the amount of pollutants being emitted into the atmosphere.

Additionally, most US airports that handle private jets are funded by the public, prompting many to realize the harmful effects exclusive air transportation may have on the environment and in the pockets of Americans. Some public scholars believe lawmakers should implement new policies to disincentivize private flying.

Industry of luxury

The expenses of this industry of luxury do not seem much to the unequivocally wealthy person who owns a private jet. According to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a community of public scholars and organizers, a private jet owner has a net worth of $190 million. But with nearly 64,000 people in the world having a net worth of $100 million or more, only a fraction of the population owns a private jet – about 0.0008%.

One out of every six flights that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handles are flown by private jets. Although fewer private aircraft fly compared to commercial jets, the carbon pollution is more. According to the study, private jets emit at least 10 times more pollutants than commercial planes per passenger. Emissions have increased by more than 23% as private jet use has risen by about a fifth since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Activity going a long way

Billionaire Elon Musk’s private jet activity was exposed last year, showcasing an astonishing amount of carbon pollution. The IPS reported that Musk flew a total of 171 flights, or nearly one flight every two days in 2022, which consumed over 837,000 liters of jet fuel. The activity produced 2,112 tons of CO2 emissions – equivalent to 132 times more than the average carbon footprint of a person.

Musk’s private jet usage gained more attention late last year when a University of Central Florida student created Twitter accounts that revealed the real-time flight paths of several high-profile jet owners. The billionaire offered the student money to delete the account, but the student rejected. When Musk became the CEO of Twitter, the accounts were deleted.

It does not appear that Musk intends to minimize his private jet activity, however. According to the IPS, the former social media executive recently added a new aircraft to his private fleet, purchasing a Gulfstream G700 for nearly $80 million. The plane is expected to be delivered sometime this year.

Private jet flights are often short durations, which can be seen as an unnecessary opportunity for CO2 to be emitted at its respective amount. Social media star Kylie Jenner went viral last year for flying a 17-minute flight from Van Nuys to Camarillo, California. The cities are less than 40 miles apart.

For the popular travel corridor between New York City and Washington DC, the IPS found that private aircraft emit an estimated 7,913 lbs of CO2 per passenger, while commercial planes have an estimated 174 lbs of emissions. Traveling by train is 7 lbs, and bus is 88 lbs. The institute said the estimates show that a passenger flying privately is responsible for approximately 45 times as many emissions as a traveler flying commercially on the same route and more than 1,100 times the emissions of a person on a train.

Taxing the ultra-rich

This all comes as the Biden administration has announced its commitment to tackle the climate crisis by setting a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) have become more prevalent in the aviation industry in recent years, but they are expensive and not yet widely used. Additionally, the IPS said that SAFs “should not be considered a panacea by the private jet industry.” Instead, the institute recommends that “private jets’ privileged perks should not be allowed to fly.”

Private jet flights contribute to only 2% of the taxes that make up the trust fund that primarily funds the FAA. Passengers that purchase commercial flights represent the overwhelming majority of the tax revenue that makes up the aviation trust fund, which is around 70%.

Several reforms are mentioned in the IPS report to disincentivize private jet activity, including a transfer tax on all private jets, levying a fuel tax, implementing a surcharge on flights less than 210 miles, and others.

“It is important that Congress level the playing field between the wealthy who use private jets and the passengers who must use commercial aviation, requiring that private jet owners pay their fair share for airspace and airport services,” the institute said. “Lawmakers should consider a number of reforms to fix this broken system.”

If a transfer fee and jet fuel tax recommended by the IPS were implemented into US law, Elon Musk would have to pay nearly $4 million in taxes for his private jet activity.

Source : Simple Flying


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