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Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The cost of flying
If you are interested in Drake Bennett's piece for Ideas this past weekend, on giving the gift of carbon neutrality, you should also be interested not only in the shopper's guide that runs online alongside his article, but also in the posts to the discussion forum Drake gave rise to. It's worth noting that the overall flavor of the discussion is pretty snide and defeatist about any attempts to reduce carbon emissions, particularly through gifts, but one reader posed an interesting question, albeit with a negative undertone:
I wonder how the cost of emissions in flying a plane cross-country is figured. I suppose the most frenzied environmentalist in the room assigns a unit cost to CO2 and to methane and so on, then figures how much of each is emitted during the flight, multiplies the amounts by the unit costs and adds up the results for a total cost. (The article doesn't provide any clue as to how it's done.)
I'm not a scientist, but I would guess that Expedia and Travelocity's carbon-offset charge of $16.99 might in fact represent a low-ball estimate, rather than the work of "the most frenzied environmentalist." Have a look at climatecrisis.net, the Web site of the Al Gore film, "An Inconvenient Truth." If you click on "Calculate your personal impact" and enter the number of flights you took in a given year -- even, say, three round trips -- you'll be amazed as to how much your carbon report card plummets. Due to the massive amounts of fuel burnt by a commercial jet in a given flight, each passenger is responsible for more carbon output than if she drove the same distance. That's based on numbers, not environmentalist propaganda.