photo by Peter Renshaw (bootload on Flickr CC)

In 1991 American industrialist Warren Buffet stated that in over 100 years of human flight, investors had never made any money from the airline industry.

So if flying is a net loss industry, which has historically relied on government subsidies, why is it at the same times taxed so heavily? Conversely, if flying is such a money-loser as well as a huge climate change driver, why is it so heavily subsidized?

I’m guessing it has something to due with lobbying by other groups within the tourism industry, including the governments of popular destinations and of course the airlines themselves.

Such lobbying by international airlines and governments is showing up across the board in light of the EU’s recent decision to include air travel emissions in their carbon market.

US carriers are taking the EU to court over its CO2 trading scheme, even though airlines from America and other nations previously concluded that taking part in a trading scheme would be far less costly than fuel or emissions taxes. They’ve avoided any such actions for 14 years and are apparently trying to continue to do so.

From a Reuter’s report:

EU officials say the international talks at ICAO have dragged on since 1997 without bearing fruit and they can wait no longer to start dealing with airlines’ emissions.

Meanwhile, emissions from flying in the EU have skyrocketed.

China is also protesting against the EU plan (claiming that it unfairly punishes the developing world) as are Canadian airlines, which will lend their voices to today’s hearings at the EU high court in Luxembourg.

From the Financial Post:

Under terms of the EU strategy, any airline flying in or out of Europe would be forced to buy carbon permits for 15% of their emissions based on 2010 levels. They would also be required to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 3% in 2012, and by 5% from 2013 onward, based on their average emissions between 2004 and 2006.

The EU hopes this policy will contribute to its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Meanwhile, Japanese airline ANA has unveiled a new fuel-efficient carbon fiber jet by Boeing. That’s another way to pay less in both fuel and emissions “taxes”.

Here is another way European governments can reduce CO2 emissions from flying: invest in and subsidize rail travel more. Make it easier and more affordable to book international train journeys already!