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Trade & Transport Policy in Inclement Skies - The Conflict between Sustainable Air Transportation and Neo-Classical Economics

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Document pages: 56 pages

Abstract: Transportation has been described as the world s most serious environmental villain. Concerns over profligate consumption of non-renewable resources (i.e., fossil fuels), global warming, ozone depletion, and acid rain, as well as air and noise pollution, urban sprawl, congestion, and safety, warrant careful examination of the role of transport in making the planet less habitable. As one source put it, "as a result of decades of careless development practices, our generation is now confronted with the reality of irreversible environmental damage. " Among the most prominent of non-renewable resources being consumed at a vigorous rate are fossil fuels, particularly oil. During the twentieth century, world energy consumption increased more than twelve times, while per capita energy consumption increased 3.7 times. Fuel consumption by transport increases at the rate of 2.6 a year. The combustion of fossil fuels releases significant pollutants into the Earth s atmosphere; these include greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides [NOx], volatile organic compounds, and unburnt hydrocarbons. Greenhouse gases are those which are particularly effective in absorbing longer wavelength radiation beyond the visible light spectrum and trapping it in the atmosphere. Transportation accounts for forty-five percent of all volatile organic compound emissions. Though most of the problem of pollution is caused by the surface modes, particularly the automobile, increased concerns are being raised by air transportation-the fastest growing mode of transport and the only human enterprise to emit pollutants directly into the upper atmosphere. Noise and emissions are the most serious environmental problems posed by commercial aviation. Aircraft and the airports to and which they fly are their source. The fundamental question is how to accommodate commercial economic activity without jeopardizing the environment in which we live. This article examines the traditional means by which the adverse environmental consequences of air transport may be arrested and advocates consideration of non-traditional remedies. Within the traditional arsenal of prohibitory and remedial means examined are: U.S. legal and regulatory mechanisms; airport locational and environmental abatement alternatives; and technology and planning. Within the less traditional means of arresting environmental pollution and enhancing sustainability examined are: social norms; rational pricing; trade policy; and transport policy. A comprehensive solution to the problems of environmental degradation caused by air transport requires that all these areas be addressed. No single remedy will likely work, and several are inextricably intertwined; but much progress can be made if they are pursued in tandem. The overriding objective should be to make transport least offensive as possible, so as to achieve sustainability. But before addressing remedies to the problem of environmental degradation, this article first assesses the problem.

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