Another “Keep It in the Ground” Fantasy that Just Won’t Fly

If you’ve got a few minutes to kill and you want to see something really cool, click on this link and see how many aircraft are in the sky right now. You can zoom in close to see hundreds of airplanes flying over your state, or you can zoom out and see literally thousands of jetliners and private planes in flight around the globe in real time.

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According to the FAA, there are more than 5,000 aircraft in the sky at any given moment and more than 43,000 flights handled by air traffic controllers every day of the year. Each one of these aircraft is carrying from one to two hundred-plus passengers on their way to business meetings, vacations, family reunions, and countless other important destinations. And not a single one of those jets would be in the air if the Keep It in the Ground activists ever realized their dystopian vision of a world without oil and natural gas.

In fact, our planet’s dependence on reliable, abundant, and affordable aviation fuel is one of the many reasons that even climate change scientists oppose the extremist goals of the Keep It in the Ground movement.

Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics Group at Oxford University and a world-renowned climate change scholar, had this to say on the topic in an op-ed he published in 2015:

Enthusiasts for renewable energy would like us to believe they can make it cheaper than coal, so a global ban would be unnecessary. But there will still be cement, jet fuel, fertiliser – the list is endless. The idea that we will develop a cheaper substitute for every single application of fossil carbon, everywhere in the world … is pure fantasy.

He was even more pointed during a presentation at the International Conference on Fuel Supply and Climate Change last year:

I think we need to recognize—and indeed campaigning organizations like Greenpeace need to recognize—that we will still be using fossil fuels at the end of this century. For perhaps the production of cement and … very possibly for flying around in planes—unless we come up with an alternative to jet fuels—there will still be economically attractive applications to fossil fuels in the indefinite future.

The global airline industry has done a tremendous job reducing greenhouse gas emissions through fuel-efficiency improvements which have saved more than 3.3 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions since 1978—an emissions savings equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road each of those years. And the industry continues to invest billions in “fuel-saving aircraft and engines, innovative technologies and advanced avionics,” which is critical because, as Professor Allen points out, “we will still be using fossil fuels at the end of this century.” There simply is no substitute for the reliable, abundant, and affordable aviation fuel derived from oil.