fear of flying to Hawai`i

flying fear

Brian Nattras isn't the only commentator on island sustainability already sparking worries about Hawaii's umbilical dependency on air travel. (Brian was, though, to my knowledge, the first to sound the alarm here on Kaua`i...at a Po`ipu presentation last October.)

At a recent "Hawai`i 2050" kick-off event on O`ahu, the UH futurist, Jim Dator, spun several plausible scenarios in which air travel to Hawai`i goes way down.

(BTW, here's an excellent commentary on the kick-off that suggests "if Hawaii becomes a leader in the field of local and regional environmental response, it has the potential to be an economic dynamo in the years to come." Of course, 36 years ago, futurists from Alvin Toffler to Arthur C. Clarke attended a similar session, yet subsequent legislatures ignored the project's recommendations, and the real world Hawai`i of today best matches the near-disaster world feared in 1970.)

Now Alex Steffen (the veteran environmental journalist-cum-blogger at WorldChanging) offers a thoughtful overview on why air travel presents one of the stickiest problems we face. He also offers a hot new idea for how to overcome this challenge.

Recent scientific findings make it clear that air travel (1) may effectively undo many of the gains so far made in cutting CO2, (2) has a climate impact 2-4 times greater than CO2 emissions alone would indicate, and (3) is already at the technical limits of efficiency in jets.

Yet, Alex is fairly certain that folks won't stop flying.

His solution? Launch an "X-Prize for Eco-Friendly Air Travel." Says Alex, "What we need is a prize, a big prize, a prestigious prize, given to the first team that can, say, cut by three-quarters airplane emissions (got to start somewhere) in a commercially practical way."

Hawai`i visitors may not be reverting to boats anytime soon, yet don't hold your breath on a tech fix here...X-Prize or no.

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities


One Response to “fear of flying to Hawai`i”

  1. Tim Dick Says:

    These aircraft already exist - it's all about the physics of speed vs. our addiction to speed.

    Drag increases with the square of speed. That means a jet that flies at 600 mph requires roughly FOUR times more power than a similar plane that flies at 300 mph.

    So if we were to go back to flying at turboprop speed we could save huge amounts of energy. http://www.usehalf.com/pick/files/efficientairliner.html

    The challenge is that airlines reduce prices if costs fall in order to get more passengers. Today's more efficient jetliners are proof of that - we fly 10 times more now than in the 1960s.

    A solution is to tax carbon (fuel) so that the full cost of flying (including the carbon cost) is paid by passengers. This may cause the price of flying to rise substantially and demand to drop as a result. Expect the airlines and Boeing to fight hard against this.

    I think that's unlikely so perhaps the answer to this is Richard Branson's biobutanol research work. Cellulosic biobutanol may be the perfect biofuel.

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