"An Affirmative Obligation"
Marion C. Blakey, Paris, France
June 19, 2007

Alternative Fuels Press Conference


Thank you, and good morning. Let me say right off the bat that I couldn’t agree more with Secretary Wynne. Make no mistake about this one. Although aviation represents less than three percent of greenhouse gases, we have an affirmative obligation to drive that number as low as it can go. And why not start by leveraging the great work that the U.S. military is already doing, rather than starting from scratch?

Let me put it bluntly. Aviation needs to push more in the direction of reducing the impacts from its emissions. And we need to invest now to ensure we have a pipeline of innovations that will bring the results we need.

What we’re talking about is vital — ensuring aviation can continue to play its role in promoting the growth and welfare of people around the world. Ensuring that the farmer in Kenya, the rancher in New Zealand, the stockbroker in France, and military forces across the globe all benefit from clean and safe skies.

And we need to harness all our ingenuity and move forward together, cooperatively. I think that is what you see in the U.S. We’ll be taking steps in the right direction and doing it together.

To put this all in context, we’re the largest aviation market in the world. We moved 12 percent more passengers and 22 percent more freight in 2006 than we did at the turn of the century, and did this while producing 10 million tons less of CO2, using 5 percent less fuel. How’s that for improved productivity? Remember, this is in an industry that’s very focused on controlling costs and operating more efficiently. In aviation, that means reducing fuel consumption and the emissions that go along with it.

Still, we know that demand for passenger and cargo aviation continues to rise. So with more planes in the air, we need to continue to cut that carbon footprint.

I think we’re off to a good start, and looking at the role alternative fuels can play is essential. Our Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, CAAFI , has two major studies under way to develop a national roadmap on the viability of alternative fuels for aviation. The first study looks at feasibility, costs, barriers and technical issues. It’s going to answer the key questions that you need to get out of the way before taking big steps.

The second study will take a look at the environmental benefits. Without this kind of quantification, it’s difficult to set meaningful goals with meaningful schedules.

CAAFI brings together manufacturers, airlines, airports, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency and put them all at the same table. When you get that kind of firepower together and you start to explore, good things happen. I’m confident that we’ll be able to make some advances.

The studies I’ve mentioned will be complete by the end of September .

In addition, as part of the FAA’s NextGen financing reform bill, we’ve asked for the authority to form a research consortium. Its mission will be to accelerate the development and certification of new technologies that lower aviation’s energy, emissions, and noise profile. It will not only work on engines and airframe technology, but it also will seek to advance work on alternative fuels.

All this points to the fact that alternative fuels may offer potential for big gains — not just in terms of the environment, but for energy security as well. I’m confident that a sizable market can develop in this area. Just look at what Boeing and Virgin Atlantic are doing.

But we do have some tough hurdles to overcome, not the least of which are the skeptics who don’t think we’ll be able to make a difference. Aviation does need to get greener. We need to build on our good record and make it better. The U.S. Government, civilian and military, is committed to helping that happen. We’ve got a lot of people pulling in the right direction. I think the best is yet to come.

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