Clean, green, flying machines — another proposal to cut airline emissions

spaceship1.jpg VS. cow_1.jpg ?

The UK’s airline mogul Richard Branson, just in the news for his $3 billion biofuel initiative, is back this week with a proposal for reducing carbon emissions right now by flying smarter. Less taxiing on the ground, trimming excess weight, and more efficient flight paths could reduce emissions by 25 percent, he says, and no technical breakthroughs required.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said a better solution would be to shoot all the cows in the world, since they emit more greenhouse gasses than airplanes ever will. Since aviation is blamed for just 2 to 3 percent of all CO2 emissions worldwide, he could have a point. We probably waste more than that idling at red lights and running the clothes dryer too long.

Alex Steffen, editor of, has another idea. He says maybe the way to come up with a green way to continue our love affair with globetrotting is to finance a competitition to create an eco-friendly airliner. “What we need is a prize, a big prize, a prestigious prize, given to the first team that can, say, cut by three-quarters airplane emissions (got to start somewhere) in a commercially practical way,” he says.

The X Prize paid $10 million for the first private space trip, and it worked. So why not?