#zeroemissions

Qantas’ 2050 zero-emissions nonsense

Woke? The only way Qantas can cut net CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 is to cease operations. In what world does CEO Alan Joyce AC think he is somehow ahead of the aerospace technology curve? In any event, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be CEO in 2050.

Joyce said the Qantas and Jetstar will cap net emissions at their current level from next year, cutting it gradually over the next 30 years. A big pronouncement but by sheer virtue of upgrading an ageing fleet (phasing out 747 Jumbos) the efficiency targets are a walk in the park, not some tremendous virtuous milestone. Burning less fuel is good for the airline’s bottom line. Lower fuel burn means fewer emissions.

The ultimate irony is that aircraft manufacturers are doing their utmost to “carbonize” the fuselage and wings in order to save weight (Boeing 787, 777X, A350, A330). Even the next generation engines are featuring extensive use of carbon derivatives because of the fuel efficiency benefits that are created by them. Put simply, even in 2050 carbon and fossil fuel derivatives will be major source materials for future planes. Maybe in Joyce’s mind, that won’t count.

Aerospace technology is utterly amazing. To think that a 650t Airbus A380 can take off, fly 12 hours and land in complete comfort. Or that one fan blade on a 777 jet engine can theoretically suspend a locomotive from it without snapping such is the tensile strength. Now we can fly 19 hours nonstop. 30 years ago, half that distance was achievable.

Bio-fuels exist. However, if the airports across the globe don’t provide bio-fuels then his zero emissions pledge is shot. According to the IEA, aviation biofuel (aka sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)) is forecast to be 20% of all aviation fuel by 2040, from 5% in 2025.

The IEA stated,

SAF are currently more expensive than jet fuel, and this cost premium is a key barrier to their wider use. Fuel cost is the single largest overhead expense for airlines, accounting for 22% of direct costs on average, and covering a significant cost premium to utilise aviation biofuels is challenging…Subsidising the consumption of SAF envisaged in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) in 2025, around 5% of total aviation jet fuel demand, would require about $6.5 billion of subsidy (based on closing a cost premium of USD 0.35 litre between HEFA-SPK and fossil jet kerosene at USD 70/bbl oil prices).

For commercial aviation to be a success, cost is always a factor. Great advancements like the Concorde died because of sustainable economics, not because of the accident. The vaunted Boeing Sonic Cruiser died at the concept stage because airlines couldn’t accept the commercial economics afforded by those higher speeds. So we have been stuck at 900km/h for decades and for decades to come.

Yes, there have been talks of electrically-powered planes (several developmental prototypes exist) but the technology to make them fly 10,000km at 900km/h with 300+ passengers on board won’t be met by 2050. Airbus intends to

make the technology available to fly a 100-passenger aircraft based on electric and hybrid-electric technology within the 2030s timeframe.”

Don’t buy into the malarkey that 10% of Qantas passengers carbon offset their travel. If one does the math, less than 3% of miles are actually covered by such virtue signalling. Either way, more than 90% don’t care to pay for their carbon offsets.

Chopping down a tree with a herring

How wonderful to have the elite try to lecture on our behaviours. Sir Ian Boyd, the UK Government’s chief climate scientist, has proclaimed that Brits must eat less meat, buy fewer clothes and reconsider heading off to Malaga on EasyJet during the summer break. He suggested that zero net emissions by 2050 will be unsustainable unless the government stops focusing on economic growth. Must have been talking to NZ PM Jacinda Ardern.

Unfortunately, politicians who run a campaign based on crimping economic growth won’t last very long in office when more constituents fall foul of such changes. Never mind, Sir Ian is likely to escape any hardships.

Sir Ian made reference to New Zealand, which has made a lot of effort to include wellness into the economic metrics. Despite the fact that evil Australia explicitly lacks “social wellbeing” in the wording of the official paperwork, CM has already shown the land down under outstrips NZ on a per capita basis across the desired metrics of mental health and so forth that Ardern champions.

Unfortunately, Sir Ian may get his wish, although not perhaps the way he intended. He can make reference to the fact we’re all consuming too much but the reality is that central banks have helped trade us into a corner that relies on front-loading ever more consumption to prevent the economy from imploding. Sadly, when the peons catch the brunt of this, they will be demanding the government dump environmental policies in favour of reviving the economy because marvelling at wind towers won’t fix their malaise. Jonathan Rochford of Narrow Road Capital sums this up nicely,

Just as the first step for an alcoholic is to admit their addiction and the damage it has done, central banks need to start by admitting they have gone too far with monetary policy and have caused substantial economic damage. An apology is owed to savers that have been punished for their prudence and to a generation of young people that have been substantially disadvantaged in their quest to purchase property without incurring excessive levels of debt. Central banks also need to admit that they have tried to use monetary policy to solve problems it simply wasn’t suitable for.”

Everything is a trade-off. However, ceding more control and regulation to governments and central banks around the world that have failed us so terribly to date have no track record to be demanding even more restrictions.

That means if governments want to hit “zero emissions”, stop telling the public how they must comply. Refrain from telling auto-makers they must be all-electric by 2040. How about just giving them the target and letting them decide by what means they will overcome the technological hurdles. That is how ingenuity is created, not by some new quango that will impose ever greater restrictions for next to no palpable return other than inconvenience and shared misery.

Monty Python described it best in the Holy Grail. The Knights of Ni demanded that King Arthur chop down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring. Sir Ian is expecting that of industry and the Britons themselves. Understandably the “It” word that eventually tortures the Knights of Ni to their demise is actually sustainable “economic growth.”

Mercedes – “grant us tech neutrality“

As CM has argued for over two years – let the industry have full technological freedom (point 13, page 15) to hit government vehicle emissions targets. Mercedes Benz is requesting the same as they have no plans to phase out diesel or petrol by 2039 because “no one knows which drivetrain mix will best serve our customers in 20 years”. The free market is a funny thing – it works well.

How many renewables companies were sent to the wall thanks to generous subsidies that brought overproduction to a market the government couldn’t afford to sustain?