Peak oil, global warming, aircraft emissions and the return of the Starrport

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116724694326062.jpg’, ‘Sketch courtesy of’, ‘Jim Starry’s innovative airport design accomplishes several things including: More efficient use of land, an uphill landing ramp and a downhill take-off ramp. The airport terminal is located below the landing ramp concourse. Of added interest, Starry is a Rockford resident.’);

More than 700 international energy leaders attended the September 2006 annual Oil and Money Conference in London. Edward Pearcey reports in the OPEC bulletin that at that meeting, Dr. Shokri Ghanem of Libya, a former director of the Research Division at the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, acknowledged the approach of peak oil.

According to Dr. Ghanem, most experts seem to agree that peak oil output is near and could occur within the next 10 or 20 years. This leaves little time for a world economy driven primarily by oil.

At a November oil depletion conference in London, Christopher Smith, a BA Connect airline captain, referred to aviation as one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It consumes 5 million barrels of oil per day globally, nearly 10 percent of all transportation fuel use. C02 emissions from aviation were 5 percent of the UK’s 2003 emissions and could rise to 12 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2050. Unrestrained growth in air travel is not compatible with the country’s effort to reduce its C02 emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Smith addressed the question of alternative fuels to replace kerosene as a jet fuel. He discussed the potentials of hydrogen, ethanol/methanol, biodiesel and synthetic fuels. He sees little likelihood that these alternatives will replace kerosene in aircraft engines soon. Smith concludes that efficiency and fuel conservation strategies will dominate airline fuel policy. Since all fuel alternatives are costly and have climate change impacts, he believes the industry will accept very high costs before any large scale fuel switching occurs. The increasing cost of fuels and the need to limit combustion emissions may mean that some of today’s flying will no longer be possible.

For every ton of kerosene consumed in jet aircraft, slightly more than 3 tons of C02 are released. The IPPC report on climate-change indicated that the overall climate changing effects of aviation are about 2.7 times greater than the C02 effect alone. Water vapor, soot, particulates, and ozone also have impacts considering the high altitudes of jet aircraft flight.

In a front-page article in the Dec. 19 issue of USA Today, Gary Stoller disclosed the probability of aviation emissions becoming one of the largest contributors to global warming by 2050. Of interest is the article’s recognition of Jim Starry’s airport design as a means to reduce airport emissions. John Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina and designer of airports worldwide, sees merit in Starry’s untried design.

Starry revealed in a recent phone conversation he will travel to North Carolina in January to work with Kasarda in refining his design to make it commercially viable. We encouraged Starry to find support, even though he met with frustrating resistance over the past 25 years trying to find backing for his Starrport. We discussed his ideas with government officials as well as Stoller. They agreed that the Starrport concept was intriguing, but until it was built, there was no way to judge its merit.

Starry’s persistence and good fortune in finding someone who could implement his ideas for an energy-saving, emission-cutting innovation are admirable. If successful, we will breathe a little easier for his efforts.

(The Starrport was first referred to in “The Breath of the Planet” in the May 10, 2006, issue of The Rock River Times)

From the Dec. 27 2006-Jan. 2, 2007, issue

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