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Jet Zero is trivially easy

Summary:
Boris would like to support something called “Jet Zero”. Will Boris’s Jet Zero ever fly? The prime minister’s call for Jet Zero on Tuesday may owe more to his fondness for a punchy slogan than any realistic view of how UK aviation might develop in the next three decades.“We should set ourselves the goal now of producing the world’s first zero-emission long-haul passenger plane,” Boris Johnson said. “Jet Zero, let’s do it!”But as far as the technology goes, Johnson might have more luck building a garden bridge to France than getting British-made, long-haul, zero-emission passenger planes in service before 2050.There’s no need to wait util 2050. This can be done today. In fact, it’s trivially simple. Just use created hydrocarbons to produce the aviation fuel that powers today’s jets and

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Boris would like to support something called “Jet Zero”.

Will Boris’s Jet Zero ever fly?

The prime minister’s call for Jet Zero on Tuesday may owe more to his fondness for a punchy slogan than any realistic view of how UK aviation might develop in the next three decades.

“We should set ourselves the goal now of producing the world’s first zero-emission long-haul passenger plane,” Boris Johnson said. “Jet Zero, let’s do it!”

But as far as the technology goes, Johnson might have more luck building a garden bridge to France than getting British-made, long-haul, zero-emission passenger planes in service before 2050.

There’s no need to wait util 2050. This can be done today. In fact, it’s trivially simple. Just use created hydrocarbons to produce the aviation fuel that powers today’s jets and airframes.

True, it’s expensive - last time we looked algal oil would cost the equivalent of $200 a barrel. But it’s entirely possible, it’s just chemistry and people can do it today.

Doing it at a price akin to today’s $40 a barrel is more difficult, we admit. On the other hand it doesn’t need doing at all.

Aviation is some 2% or so (2.4% in 2018 apparently) of all emissions at present. This is a rounding error on total emissions, obviously enough. It is not true that the desire to reduce emissions means every sector must do so - we do not have to spread the pain. Instead we should continue to emit where what emits is of most value and cease where it is of little.

Aviation is of great value for people like going off on their hols. The correct answer, thus, to aviation emissions is to fuggeddaboudit. The benefit in terms of human utility is higher than the costs in those same terms of human utility. This is thus something we wish to continue being able to do even taking those emissions into account.

Sure, it would be nice if there were a no emissions method, maybe someone will get lucky with those chemistry sets. But it’s not important that any one does or not. For aviation emissions simply aren’t either a large problem nor is aviation itself something we want to stop doing.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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