A senior official with Airlines for America (A4A) defended the airline industry’s record on emissions reduction before the US Congress, saying that the proposed Green New Deal’s (GND) call to replace air travel with high-speed rail ignores progress carriers have made toward increasing fuel efficiency and developing new technology.

The remarks came during a Feb. 26 hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held to examine the impacts of federal infrastructure policy on climate change and the environment.

“It goes without saying that A4A has a lot of concern about any plan where the rhetoric is calling for the elimination of air travel, and we think that should also be concerning to the more than 157 million Americans who flew last year,” A4A VP-environmental affairs Nancy Young said. “We are already doing a number of things that are suggested as measures in the GND, like developing and deploying sustainable alternative jet fuel and innovating in technology and operations infrastructure, and we’re doing all that without a government mandate,” Young said.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), the Committee’s ranking member, took an even more critical tone, saying that the GND’s call to “make air travel unnecessary” was like “something out of a fairy tale.”

“Who actually believes we can make aviation ‘unnecessary’ by building some vast high-speed rail system? Because here in the real world, the poster child for high-speed rail in California has run off the rails before our eyes,” said Graves, referencing construction on the California High-Speed Rail, portions of which have been postponed indefinitely following years of cost overruns and delays.

“And by the way, this massive shift would put 11 million people with aviation-related jobs out of work. Those are some of the real-world consequences of pursuing this fantasy proposal,” Graves said.

In her testimony, Young described how US airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by more than 125% since 1978—roughly (cumulatively) 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)—which is equivalent to taking 25 million cars off the road during each of those years. Between 2000 and 2017, the industry accommodated a 34% increase in passenger and cargo volume while keeping net emissions growth limited to near-zero, she added.

Young also said that A4A rejects the “unilateral regulatory approach” of the European Union, which has attempted in the past to impose its EU emission trading scheme (ETS) on international aviation, a move that has been repeatedly postponed after international outcry. A4A instead supports efforts to tackle the issue of greenhouse gases and climate change through international forums like ICAO, as well as through public-private partnerships that offer matching funds, which Young said bring “a lot of bang for the buck,” and are a “great way to leverage the best in aviation.”

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com