Sunday, July 30, 2023

"Ban Private Jets? Or Give Private Jets to All?"

You may remember this story, here via the Irish Times a couple years ago:

Corporate jets to escape EU’s ‘green’ aviation fuel tax

I believe that raised enough of an uproar that changes were proposed but I don't see that the EC has yet implemented the additional fuel surcharge on private jets.

And the headliner from the Breakthrough Institute, July 23:

In your ideal society, do you imagine there would be no private jets anymore, or would there be private jets for all?

This was the provocation that the late sociologist Erik Olin Wright issued to his hosts at a San Francisco lunch following a talk promoting his book “Envisioning Real Utopias” at a housing cooperative in 2016. A hardware engineer and entrepreneurial acquaintance of mine who happened to be at the meal recounted to me some of the flavor of the conversation. It was no idle, contrarian stratagem for prompting entertaining post-prandial intellectual repartee. Wright was a specialist in social stratification and his work has profoundly influenced contemporary left thinking on economic classes in recent years.

The way in which one answers the question speaks to vital considerations for any progressive regarding political strategy, policy design, social structure and even worldview. It’s not just about private jets, but about everything.

How the professor answered his own question was somewhat more complex than the binary he posed, and that interesting position will be described shortly. But the Private Jet Question in recent months has passed from the mealtime conversation piece to popular interest due a series of celebrity scandals relating to the sector’s relatively outsized greenhouse gas emissions, which have in turn prompted a flurry of opinion pieces, think-tank reports, climate activist protests at private-jet airports and even a legislative crackdown in France.

Relatively outsized are the key words here: it is not that private jets come close to being a significant source of atmospheric carbon in absolute terms (they amount to just 4% of aviation’s emissions, which in turn are 3.5% of all emissions), but rather that they are just so outlandishly, cartoonishly carbon intensive in terms of emissions per passenger-mile—gargantuan volumes of the villain gases for the transport of just a handful of extremely wealthy travelers, and sometimes just one at a time, or even none. An average member of this jet set produces more than 10 times the carbon pollution that a passenger traveling with a commercial airline does.

An analysis of private jet flights taken by celebrities and carried out by digital marketing firm Yard concluded that in 2022, the worst offender was singer Taylor Swift, who took 170 trips in her $40 million Falcon 7X. This meant that this one person had emitted over the course of the year just shy of 1,200 times the average airline passenger’s volume of emissions. (Her weak defense amounted to pointing out that she had lent her jet to friends a few times, so the carbon emissions were not technically all her own.) Other celebrities in the private-jet-offender top 10 include Mark Wahlberg, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey—who, by the way, also says that the environment is the thing she values most in her life. Across the pond, the climate scandal of multimillionaire and billionaire private-jet use has been provoked by the Paris Saint-Germain football club taking a private flight to Nantes, a mere two and a half hours from the capital by train, and by Bernard Arnault, the head of luxury-goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Arnault, who surpassed Elon Musk this year to become the world’s richest individual, had taken 18 such flights in one month, mostly between Paris and Brussels, an even shorter train distance of just an hour and 22 minutes....