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Can flying go green? | The Economist

Covid-19 has caused the worst crisis in aviation's history. Is this the industry's moment for a green reset—and which technologies offer the best hope?

Read The Economist’s special report on business and climate change: https://econ.st/3bbckJZ

Sign up to The Economist’s fortnightly climate change newsletter: https://econ.st/3b8FQ3c

Find our most recent climate change coverage: https://econ.st/3pQLYkq

Can the aviation industry fully recover from the effects of the pandemic? https://econ.st/3baDqAQ

How air travel’s sudden collapse will reshape a trillion dollar industry: https://econ.st/3pRjirH

Why aren’t all commercial flights powered by sustainable fuel? https://econ.st/3b7MBC7

After many false starts, hydrogen power could now be widely used: https://econ.st/38gTNdo

Could hydrogen fuel offer a greener way to fly? Listen to our Babbage podcast: https://econ.st/35a66GD

How aircraft can save fuel by copying the way geese fly: https://econ.st/2KTg5sZ

Is the era of electric flight upon us? https://econ.st/3rWBe5V

How microbes in panda’s guts can help in biofuel production: https://econ.st/3pUyyEn

Find our most recent science and technology coverage: https://econ.st/2LnEJBC
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23 comments

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  1. Joe G

    Stop Chemtrails (Barium, Strontium, Aluminum) and the problem is solved. Killing off the population with Chemtrails MUST STOP! NOW!

  2. Tanya G Davies

    Doesn't hydrogen indirectly cause greenhouse emissions?

  3. SamMadrid1

    Sustainablity is desirable but it is going to require a lot of governmental policy changes in order for the technologies that are needed and exist today and new generations of technologies to be widely implemented. That to me is the real test of just how serious governments and corporations are about sustainability, circular economies and all of the current buzzwords that we hear 24 hours a day from every corner of the political and corporate realms. The consumer cannot be the only payor of sustainability, it will not happen if it is left to the consumer or if it does it will be slower than needed and will have negative effects in other parts of the consumer chain.

  4. The Aristocrat

    Next it's going to be " Green military aircraft that shoot Plants "

  5. Robert Hutton

    I'm saying go greenfly go green flyer.

  6. Rhyno Souris

    I was so worried that the world's woke elite might have to bicycle to Davos, or Martha's Vineyard

  7. Jill_Of_Trades :

    There could be electrical charging ports for aeroplanes (the electricity coming from renewable energy sources) – no worry about inefficiency due to the weight of kerosene (or any other liquid fuel)

    Hydrogen-fuel can be very dangerous (explosive) and cost much more money to introduce than the above suggestion (from what I know; words from my science teachers, this video)

  8. Bashar

    Doesn't water vapour makes the atmosphere hotter eventually? I've been in a greenhouse before…so?

    Recycling waste would be great.

    1. Scott McFaul

      Greenhouses aren't hot because they are humid, they are humid because they are hot. The heat through the glass/plastic panels causes the water to evaporate out of the plants and the soil, and it can't escape and so remains in the vapour phase. Potentially it may help to cool down the Earth, in the same way that cloudy/overcast weather reduces sunlight on the ground, and less heat is absorbed by the surface.

  9. Rassenomatjutut

    I hope that works on jumbo jets, cargo planes and military jet fighters, too. 🛫

  10. Jérémie B

    Short answser : no, it can't

  11. moses 1997

    Aviation market only takes up 3% carbon emission that is nothing compared to others aviation is way more efficient than cars

  12. DfRT tolir

    Yea we will not pollute the sky, but were gonna pollute it with sound pollution

  13. Healer

    Hope that nothing will be just late in 2-3 decades 🙁

  14. Eric Liu

    Just use biofuels that are not made from food crops, they work in already existing jet engines. Case Closed.

  15. Ashutosh Kumar Jha

    Bringing fuels composed of hydrogen and biofuels will definitely make our planet earth more safer and cooler due to which species can dwell more happily. Excellent and innovative idea! Charming and inspiring.

  16. AhGorgonzola

    It's true that the technology they outline does work in theory (and in practice in some cases) BUT the challenge they didn't properly cover is how we decide what we want to trade to achieve it at scale. Aviation requires huge amounts of energy. If we want a net-zero society then energy will be limited and we'll have to decide what we want to stop doing instead (heating or air-conditioning, for instance). If we still want to eat, biofuel is only great if we have a spare planet and hydrogen will take very large amounts of electricity to create.

    The mention of increased cost is also nice to hear but sadly is hugely optimistic. Given the constraints we'll have in future a 10% price increase sounds like a laughable projection.

  17. Sven Dahlström

    You can run a turbine on biodiesel, the technology is already here, byt it will be more expensive obviously. Aeroplanes are become less polutive all the time by small incremental changes to aerodynamics and fuel efficincy

  18. Lincoln Wikipedia

    Lol so are you saying we will use electric plane lol easy for hacking no way will I board electric plane

    1. Scott McFaul

      Easy for hacking? Like there isn't already electricity on planes now hahahaha you don't know what you're talking about.

    2. Lincoln Wikipedia

      @Scott McFaul but plane is powered by fuel not electricity right?

  19. Steven Abbott

    "Live with less, eat bugs, be happy."

  20. Christian Ø. Rasmussen

    I remember watching something like that 10-15 years ago and thinking this is the future.

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