Fly Like an Eagle…Until the EU Starts Fining U.S. Airlines

Nov 13, 2012

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

Here’s the situation. You’re on a flight from San Francisco to London, “ridin' along in this big ol' jet plane” as you fly into the great blue yonder. You zip across the United States, cruise over Canada, soar over the ocean, and then glide into Heathrow. Let’s break down the trip:

  • 29% in U.S. airspace
  • 37% in Canadian airspace
  • 25% over the high seas
  • ~9% over European Union (EU) airspace

Even though only a small fraction of the flight was in its airspace, under an EU scheme, U.S. airlines that don’t purchase carbon emissions allowances for the entire flight would be fined.

This idea brings to mind a different Steve Miller song.

It’s good to see that the European Commission came to its senses yesterday and recommended the delay of such a dangerous unilateral tax on non-EU passenger airlines, cargo, and business aviation for a year while the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) takes the time to craft a global solution.

Yet, U.S. civil aviation still isn’t safe, because the EU’s announcement yesterday is simply a proposal and they have made it clear that they are only delaying enforcement until October 2013.  It is critical that Congress pass S. 1956, the “European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011,” and send a strong message to the EU that imposing a unilateral scheme on U.S. passengers and carriers will not be tolerated.  It was the specter of this legislation that prompted the EU to make their announcement to temporarily suspend their scheme yesterday.

A coalition letter, signed by the U.S. Chamber and 17 affected groups, maintains this pressure by strongly encouraging the president to challenge international aviation being included under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  Remember that the EU is not bound to U.S. legislation, which is why the United States must take the matter even further by presenting its case before the International Civil Aviation Organization.  The message must be clear that the United States finds the proposed carbon allowance scheme unacceptable.

Hopefully the EU will rethink its tax, and let “big ol’ jet airliners” from U.S. civil aviation continue flying into the EU worry-free.

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