- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 15, 2006

In a monumental amalgam of both regulatory zeal and Chicken Littleism that puts California’s Air Resources Board to shame, the European Parliament earlier this month approved plans for “immediate introduction” of a tax on jet fuel for flights within the 25 member states of the European Union.

The charge is predicted to double the cost of round-trip airfare by employing a special emissions trading scheme (ETS) for the aviation industry, wherein airlines would have to buy permits to cover their output of carbon dioxide.

This complicated nightmare is a direct result of the slavish adoption of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol by officials from industrialized European countries, whose governing philosophy seems to be “of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats.”

Based on earlier reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Academy of Sciences, the Kyoto solons drew the questionable conclusion that recent climate changes are most likely due to human activity rather than simply natural and periodic fluctuations in the climate system.

So-called “greenhouse gases,” particularly carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides — the result of burning fossil fuels — came under heavy attack, and these policy makers concluded that the past 50 years of observed warming was on account of greenhouse gas concentrations.

Because aviation emissions currently represent 3 percent of CO2 in Europe, and are expected to increase in coming decades, the policy wonks at Kyoto threw down the gauntlet whereby their U.K. and EU brethren responded with involved emission trading schemes.

Under this plan, overall total emissions are capped and companies must hold permits to cover their emissions, with each company receiving an emission allocation. The airlines, like power companies and heavy industry, would have to trade their emissions as an incentive to be more fuel-efficient. They would buy permits to cover their CO2 output above an agreed limit or sell them if they undershoot that target.

Under such a trading regime, the market is supposed to determine the cost of carbon necessary to meet the agreed target. Unlike a tax, where the level of tax needed to achieve the environmental objective is unclear, the environmental objective is assured, they say, by the overall cap on emissions.

Thus the stage has been set for confrontations and jockeying for position among all the parties involved: airline companies versus government regulators, big airlines versus small airlines, domestic carriers versus international carriers, and airlines versus other transportation industries. Already smarting from unreasonable cost burdens, many European airlines have been lobbying for a more lenient scheme that would compensate for only a small portion of their emissions and cost the average passenger less.

But European environmental groups that oppose the growth of aviation, like the GreenSkies Alliance, gleefully encourage mandatory and burdensome fees to reduce air travel demand.

Most major European airlines think the ETS is flawed because it would put them at a competitive disadvantage, and they also suspect an environmental tax will be added anyway, in which case they would pay twice for the same supposed benefit.

The chief executive of British Airways, for example, rejects a separate ETS for aviation, declaring, “If you closed down every airline that operates from the U.K. you would reduce global CO2 emissions by just 0.1 percent. You will not solve global warming by singling out aviation.”

The real problem is that, to start, there is no clear-cut scientific consensus on the effect of human activity on global climate change, regardless of what Al Gore and his echoing minions in the mainstream media would have you believe. Actual satellite data show no warming in the atmosphere since 1979, yet certain environmental advocates are pushing global warming to policymakers strictly on the basis of computer modeling.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Richard Lindzen, professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a dissenter from the trend, noted that these efforts are “a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition.”

The extreme measures now being adopted by the EU for the airlines are symptomatic of the hubris of bureaucrats who rush to legislate by fiat ill-conceived solutions before clearly identifying the exact problem, if there is a problem at all, regardless of the hobbling effect on industry.

In this, they are not unlike the legions of environmentalists who want us all to get rid of our cars and use buses or hop back on our bicycles to go where we want.

BARRETT KALELLIS

A Michigan-based columnist, writer and pundit for NewsMax.com, whose articles appear regularly in various local and national print and online publications. He can be reached at [email protected]

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