When discussing any environmental issue in China, it's always a struggle to decide which deserves more emphasis: how dire the situation is, or how hard Chinese authorities are trying to cope with it. China's skies, waters and even sources of food are some of the most poisonously contaminated on Earth. Its efforts to curtail pollution and develop cleaner energy sources are some of the world's most ambitious.
This tension also informs China's plans for aviation. The immediate threat posed by airline emissions in China is less obviously dire than, say, the particulate pollution that so often makes big-city air opaque, or the heavy-metal tainting of food and groundwater supplies that has contributed to China's current cancer epidemic. But airplane emissions are significant and will become more so, especially as aerospace grows faster than most other parts of China's economy.
Demand for air travel has grown little in the Western world in the decade since the 9/11 attacks, but it has increased fourfold in China, and is growing in the rest of the developing world too. The U.S. and all the countries in Europe together have fewer than 10 new commercial airports now under construction; China is building perhaps 100 new ones and expanding many more. Boeing and Airbus base their major sales hopes for the coming generation of airliners in China. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is investing heavily in the aircraft that may eventually compete against them, Comac's regional ARJ21 and long-haul C919.
Like so many aspects of China's growth, all of this will have serious consequences for the environment. The world's airliners produce about 2 percent of the world's CO2 emissions and play at least twice as large a role in climate change because the effect of CO2 and some other greenhouse gases is greater at high altitude. Aviation's share of global emissions has been rising, and China's share in the aviation total has been rising faster still. If the current trend were to continue, efforts to reduce emissions elsewhere could be swamped by the sheer increase in air travel in the skies over China.
The aviation industry is long past the point of denial on emissions issues. Its European and U.S. leaders have realized that for reasons of appearance, as well as because of impending legislation and to forestall reaction from customers, they must act. They also have strong economic incentives. Fuel represents the largest single expense for airline companies. Every gallon they do not burn makes their flights more profitable.
The world's airlines and aircraft makers, which operate on decades-long timetables rivaled by those of dam builders and designers of power plants, have resolved to cut their net carbon emissions by 2050 to half of what they were in 2005, even as total passenger miles traveled increase threefold or much more. China is the market where new planes are most rapidly being bought, deployed, and flown. It is therefore where the aerospace industry is doing the most interesting work to make aviation more sustainable.
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I am amazed Popsci would run an article that questions the morality of using corn for bio fuel, but has no concerns at all about opening up Tibetan airports. Since annexing the area the Chinese have been trying to move as many mainlanders into the region as possible to diminish any dissent. The only thing slowing them down has been geographic isolation of the area. Thanks to GE, however, they can now land as many jumbo jets in the area as they need. Maybe next month we can celebrate how American companies are helping use the internet regimes to crack down on dissent in Iran and Syria.
Correction last line should read: Maybe next month we can celebrate how American companies are helping regimes use the internet to crack down on dissent in Ir an and Syria.
At the end of the article, I found it most interesting to learn about algae as an energy source and it being CO2 carbon neutral to the environment. As algae grows it removes C02 from the environment, so when we burn algae the C02 is released, leaving a balance of carbon in the environment.
Science sees no further than what it can sense, i.e. facts.
Religion sees beyond the senses, i.e. faith.
Open your mind and see!
Obviously using combining carbon from biomass or atmosphere extraction then combining it with nuke hydrogen is far cheaper than algae to produce jet fuel. Shell Qatar GTL plant is already doing it with natural gas making a profit at under $25 a barrel market.
This would mark China's stance as a favorable investment climate in the growing autocratic world. By knowingly choosing to relinquish their military control in favor a favorable aviation climate could result in an influx of travelers. This is not a matter of green versus military but simply a matter of conservative authoritarian policies versus the future of economic innovation in China. China may or may not honor the request of an industry who already turns a profit despite the increasing cost of fuel. This is a matter of trust and the example set by this situations outcome shall determine whether China is a favorable government for international communication. May China make its choice knowing it sets not only an example for economic innovation but military and government advancement and reform. China has set previous precedents deeming a minor economic motive as an insufficient exception to military restrictions and government policies. It comes down to the economic necessity the rest of the world is in to change and adapt to a worsening economy due to an oil reliance paired with an increasing debt to the Chinese government. Currently China has yet to match international trends (favoring domestic and government controlled innovation) and in turn their influence shall soon lead to many more policies that do not benefit the earth and atmosphere. Finally China has a government body playing an intricate role in the fate of the economy while the majority of the world has a corporate ruling body without the restrictions or growth of the Chinese both of which are ignorant of their effects on the environment. While the USA and Europe may require innovations in aviation to continue to turn a profit the way to accomplish this potentially unreachable feat is to not make yet another product that in the long term only stimulates the Chinese economy and increases national debt. No foreign or corporate body is willing to take a stand and promote an innovative policy of aviation, while aware that it would directly restrict the Chinese governments policies, fearing economic and civil repercussions. Is the rest of the world prepared to rely on the Chinese for algae fuel as well as debt?
Algae technologies are already Carbon Negative. Here's how: Algae is comprised of three main components; Lipids (Oil), Proteins, and Carbohydrates. Carbon is the 6th most common element in the universe and bonds to nearly everything just like hydrogen. That means not all of the CO2 captured will be re-released since only the algae oil is used to make biofuels. The best part of all? Algae love to clean which means they are the perfect organisms for treating municipal waste-water and runoff from agriculture.
The race to full scale commercialization of Algae is one that the US can, should, and must win.