The following is the opening statement of U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member, from today's hearing on aviation emissions.
"Aviation is essential to a healthy economy and the free flow of travel and commerce world-wide. However, as we all know, airplanes are currently solely dependent on petroleum-based fuels that emit greenhouse gases.
"According to the FAA, the transportation sector is responsible for about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. But to put things into perspective, aviation is responsible for only 3% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
"Historically, the aviation industry has taken a leading role in the effort to reduce emissions. Emissions are directly tied to fuel consumption, and with the soaring cost of jet fuel, airlines and operators have a clear incentive to reduce fuel burn. Significant environmental benefits have come along with the business incentive to conserve fuel.
"Multi-billion dollar research and development investments by industry are yielding more efficient, quieter engines as well as lighter and more aerodynamic airframes. It is my understanding that for aircraft of the 70 to 150 passenger size, Pratt and Whitney's newly developed geared turbofan engine will increase aircraft fuel efficiency upwards of 12 percent. Boeing's groundbreaking new 787 Dreamliner design will require 20 percent less fuel, be 60 percent quieter, and will produce 28 percent less nitrous oxide emissions than the plane it replaces.
"Realizing that aviation, like all other industries, is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to note that in the last 35 years, the U.S. air transportation system has experienced a six-fold increase in mobility. However, even with that growth in travel, aviation fuel efficiency has seen a 60 percent improvement.
"Aviation emissions have been and remain a controversial issue. Aviation's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions has recently received growing attention domestically, and even greater scrutiny abroad.
"The European Commission has proposed to regulate aircraft emissions in a proposal to add the aviation industry to the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme. Some have raised the concern that the proposal violates several bilateral agreements, including the recently signed US-EU Open Skies Agreement. There are also concerns that it ignores recognized international civil aviation laws.
"While the second phase of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme is a vast improvement over the first phase, it is important that proposals to regulate aircraft emissions not unfairly burden an industry that has done so much to reduce its impact on the environment - an industry that we rely on to bring together the international community.
"In the U.S., the FAA and this committee have undertaken several initiatives to address the impact aviation has on the environment. For instance, in this committee's current FAA reauthorization proposal that passed the House last September, we included no less than 11 programs to lower aviation's impact on the environment.
"In coordination with the airline industry's emission reduction efforts, the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) and Continuous, Low Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) programs have proven themselves successful. As reauthorized in the House FAA reauthorization proposal, we are committed to continue to advance these programs in the future.
"Government also has a responsibility to continue to invest in fundamental aviation research and development. In fact, for fiscal year 2009 the FAA plans to invest more than $336 million in research and development.
"According to U.S. government sources, the number of commercial air carriers has doubled since the late 1970's, and the number of U.S. scheduled passenger enplanements has jumped by about 175%. Domestic enplanements are projected to grow to over one billion by 2016.
"As aviation grows it is critical that it continues to do so in an environmentally responsible manner.
"The aviation industry has proven that lessening aviation's impact on the environment can be achieved without strict government regulations. As scrutiny over the aviation industry is on the rise around the world, we must be sure not to hamper productive efforts that have proven effective at reducing emissions. We must also continue our work on developing cleaner-burning alternative jet fuels.
"Clearly, aviation emissions is a complicated issue requiring a complex and multi-faceted approach utilizing the expertise and knowledge of the FAA, NASA, and the aviation industry."