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Aviation White Paper argues debt crisis down, ignores peak oil, means a flight path to a stormy future

aviation_white_paper_dec2009 The  Aviation White Paper released 16/12/2009 adopts outdated air traffic growth projections done by BITRE before the global financial crisis and ignores peak oil 2005-2008. While BITRE went to great lengths in its modeling to account for past events like 9/11, SARS and the Asian financial crisis by introducing dummy variables, the aviation white paper failed to introduce such variables for the GFC and peak oil.

The mis-investments from such a flawed approach will be huge. For example, a taskforce now looks for the location of a 2nd international airport for Sydney. The previous site Badgery’s creek is now being sold off to make room for housing in an area which routinely exceeds 35 degrees in hot summers requiring continuous air-conditioning while coal fired power plants at Lithgow are running out of cooling water.

So much for far-sighted planning and the future.

stormy_flight_path On CO2 emissions, impacts from a 5% air traffic growth are assumed to be lessened by a 2% growth in fuel efficiency, leaving a 3% growth in CO2 emissions. All the while Australia is negotiating in Copenhagen for a carbon pollution reduction scheme.
And if aviation emissions really grew by that much, the aviation paper should be entitled “Flight Path to a Stormy Future”. This is because NASA climatologist James Hansen just published a book “Storms of my Grandchildren” (external link, right) predicting huge storms over the Atlantic in addition to the area of cyclones and hurricanes expanding. That will mean many canceled flights.

(1) GFC and peak oil

Read these clever, yet illusionary and self-defeating semantics (page 6)

“The decision to develop the White Paper pre-dated the global financial crisis which engulfed the world during the latter half of 2008. It was taken at a time of strong industry growth where major challenges were appearing in the areas of infrastructure capacity, skills shortages and rising fuel prices. Few anticipated the extent or rapidity with which these concerns would be overtaken by those generated by the financial crisis. Or the extent to which the crisis would spread beyond the financial sector to other industries, none more so than the aviation industry.

The impact of recent economic turbulence on the aviation industry has been severe, but history shows the aviation industry will regroup and return to growth as the broader economy recovers. Not only will a rebound occur, but the industry will continue to innovate and expand. The focus of the White Paper, as a long-term policy and planning document, is very much on the future and on the challenges facing both industry and governments in continuing to grow this vital sector.”

Therefore, it was easy for the Aviation White Paper to simply adopt previous research done by the BITRE, namely Avline #13, of December 2008

which in turn is based on the BITRE Working Paper 72, of May 2008

Both these documents use statistics up to and including 2007/2008, don’t know about the GFC and peak oil 2005-2008.

In particular, let’s have a look at the air traffic models of WP 72. These models use parameters on population, real income (per capita GDP), exchange rates, relative price of travel and accommodation and some dummy variables to account for certain events impacting on the airline industry. There are 3 types of  aircraft movements:

(a) International movements of overseas visitors in equation (2.1) with dummy variables accounting for large variations due to SARS,  9/11 (DSEP11) and “OTHER”

(b) International movements of Australian residents in equation (2.2) with dummy variables due to the Asian financial crisis and 9/11

(c) Domestic airline passenger movement in equation (2.3) and dummy variables for the Olympic Games and 9/11

The process of calibrating the model with past data is described as follows:

“As mentioned above, the model is empirically estimated using historical data from 1991–92 to 2005–06. The estimated regression statistics are presented in Table A1 (Appendix A) and the estimated elasticities are summarised in Table 2.1. According to the estimated statistics, the estimated models are a good fit with an adjusted R‑square value ranging from 0.69 to 0.98. The high adjusted R-square values suggest that the models have a high predictive power. In other words, these models are expected to provide reliable forecasts of international movements of overseas visitors.

Measures (such as carbon tax and carbon trading) that are designed to reduce green house gas emissions are likely to have an adverse influence on air travel as they will increase the cost of air travel. However, these measures have not been introduced on Australia’s domestic and international routes so their impact has not been included in the forecasts presented in this report.

In this study, forecasts of passenger movements are developed on the basis of demandside parameters which are estimated using econometric models specified in Chapter 2. These forecasts do not include the influence of supplyside parameters. This is mainly because it is relatively difficult to estimate them in the absence of long time-series data on supplyside variables that influence airport activities, including
passenger movements. For this reason, they are unconstrained forecasts. However, BITRE has taken into account the influence of some supplyside variables, such as the expected introduction of new generation aircraft (such as the A380) on Australia’s international routes and rising oil prices”.

So while a lot of effort was put into dummy variables accounting for past events, the Aviation White Paper failed to introduce dummy variables for the global financial crisis which has entered now its 2nd phase: souvereign debt failures. So where is DGFC or DDEBT? Not to mention DPEAKOIL. Peak oil is not just about oil prices but about physical limits to aviation fuel supplies.

aviationfuels_emma_nygren (2) Alternative research

These are the documents to study, not the aviation white paper:

Aviation fuels and peak oil, a thesis done at the University of  Uppsala

The graph to the left shows a 5% growth path versus the oil supply curve from the Energy Watch Group, opening up a huge gap.

The 2 curves in between are for 25% and 50% fuel efficiency gains by 2020.  It is clear that the assumed growth can never materialize.

aleklett_future_aviation_fuel Future Transportation Fuels by Prof. Aleklett, president of ASPO (slide 57 and 58)

These 2 slides are from his presentation he did during his October 2009 visit to Australia: aviation fuel accounts for 6% of global oil consumption and a 3% aviation fuel increase versus 3 oil supply scenarios.

aleklett_transport_fuels Another interesting  slide show is from captain Chris Smith (BA connect), November 2006, entitled “Aviation and oil depletion”. It contains a slide showing how declining fuel efficiency (-1% pa) by aging aircraft can be compensated by early retirement of old aircraft.

The slide below on radiative forcing is also from this document.

My submission to the Aviation Green Paper in which I superimposed Australian and global crude oil supply curves with BITRE’s air traffic growth curve

Sydney doesn’t need a 2nd airport

(3) CO2 emissions

We know the Federal government is peak oil ignorant but what about CO2 emissions from aviation? We read:

aviation_radiative_forcing “Civil aviation contributes about two per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In recent decades aviation activity has grown at approximately five per cent per year. Over this time, the aviation industry has progressively introduced fuel saving measures which have delivered efficiency gains of about two per cent per year. Consequently, the carbon footprint of aviation has been growing at a rate of about three per cent per year.

The ICAO high level meeting recognised that a 2 per cent annual fuel efficiency improvement is unlikely to deliver the level of emissions reduction necessary to stabilise and then reduce aviation’s
contribution to climate change, and that more ambitious goals will need to be considered to deliver a sustainable long-term path for aviation.”

So what is the conclusion? Let emissions go up 3% and hope for the best. On the same day the Transport Minister released this totally flawed aviation white paper, the Prime Minister is negotiating a reduction in CO2 emissions in Copenhagen. Oops. Not by the aviation industry, obviously.

Oh, and by the way, there is a multiplier of between 2-3 for CO2 emissions at high altitudes. The radiative forcing has to be calculated. The IPCC tried to estimate it already in 1999.

Aviation and the global atmosphere

A 2007  update is here:

Authors of the aviation white paper, not quoting this research, entitled their work “Flight Path to the Future”. It should actually be “Flight Path to a Stormy Future” with a lot of bumpy flights,  if air traffic and emissions were to go up as estimated.

James Hansen in his book “Storms of my Grandchildren”:

“But an increase in maximum storm strength and expansion of the regions with severe storms – thunderstorms, tornados, and tropical storms – are just the beginning  of the storm story. As global warming continues, storm effects will ratchet upward in 3 major ways.

One of the ratchetings will be the development of more powerful and destructive mid latitude or frontal cyclones. Frontal storms will be more powerful, because they depend upon the temperature difference between the cold and warm air masses as well as upon the amount of moisture in the atmosphere behind the warm front. This intensification of frontal cyclones will be an effect of melting ice sheets, once ice sheets begin to disintegrate rapidly enough to keep regional ocean surface temperature from rising as fast as continental temperatures and temperatures at lower latitudes. The most important point is that there will be places and occasions in which the warm air masses will be loaded with far more water vapor than would be the case in a cooler world. A taste of this ratcheting’s future consequences was provided by the cyclonic blizzard , the Super storm, that hit North America in mid March 1993. That storm, referred to in some regions as the “Storm of the Century” was caused by a collision of a cold Arctic air mass and a moisture laden low pressure air mass from the Gulf of  Mexico…..”

Well, then, many flights will need to be canceled. Dummy variable DSTORM. Prof. Lovelock calls it “Revenge of Gaia”

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