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Airports Tackle Emissions

stockholm-airport2As airlines consider how to meet their carbon-reduction targets, airports have also been exploring ways to reduce their emissions. From buses that run on biofuel to heating systems that rely on wood chips to eco-taxis, a range of European and U.S. airports are making advances.

For instance, the Airports Council International Europe and its 440 member airports have pledged to reduce their impact on the climate, as well as find ways to become carbon neutral, according to a New York Times article.

Monitoring the progress is the Central European Institute of Technology (CEIT), a research and development center in Austria. CEIT recently unveiled a researh study on airports and emissions, according to the Times.

CEIT points to Sweden’s Stockholm-Arlanda airport as the standard-bearer.

A nearby lake provides water to cool the airport, meaning that fewer conventional cooling units are needed. And during the cool seasons, the airport’s heating system burns wood pellets in a system that has allowed the airport to slash annual CO2 emissions by 94 percent since 1990 (from 16,000 to 1,000 metric tons), according to the article.

A fleet of hybrid and renewable fuel-powered eco-taxis services the airport. These eco-taxis line up separately from ordinary taxis, giving travelers an easy way to choose. About a third of taxis at the airport qualify under this category. It was estimated that the eco-taxis resulted in a reduction of nearly 4,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2007, according to the article.

The Stockholm airport aims for all taxis to be eco-taxis by 2011.

Additionally, the airport uses a pair of local bus companies whose vehicles rely on locally produced diesel fuel, derived from rapeseed, a fuel that also is being used by some airfield vehicles. The airport has a stated goal that all vehicles operating within the airport will be environmentally clean, at which point the airport would have a resulting 6,000 metric ton reduction in CO2 annually, according to the article.

In the United States, alternative-fuel vehicles are being introduced at the Portland airport. Boston’s Logan International Airport has set aside 100 parking spaces for hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles.

The report notes that a major difference between the U.S. and European aiports comes down to cars. The U.S. is so reliant on cars that few airports have developed the infrastructure to ferry travelers by train to the cities they serve. The report points out that in addition to reducing CO2 emissions from travelers cars, trains help relieve congestion and tend to run more or less on time, taking out the guess-work of traffic jams that motorists face on the way to airports.

Still, airport employees and others rely on cars to get to the airport. At London’s Heathrow airport, a car-sharing program boasts more than 6,000 people from 300 airport companies.

In Paris, future projects may mean that hot groundwater beneath the Orly airport can supply a third of the facility’s heating, saving 7,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. Currently, the Orly airport generates 27,000 metric tons of emissions annually.

In Vienna’s airport, hot water from a nearby oil refinery is piped in to reduce fuel requirements and emissions by five percent.

Numerous airports are using their flat rooftops and hangar buildings to place solar panels atop. These airports include:

  • San Francisco
  • Zurich
  • Munich
  • Paris Orly
  • Rome
  • Salzburg
  • Stuttgart

In January, the Port of Seattle Commission approved funds for a new environmentally friendly pre-conditioned air project at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A complete design for the project is expected by January 2010, with construction set to begin later in the year. The project completion date is expected to be December 2012.

It will cost just over $33 million but will save the airport $400,000 annually by reducing emissions by over 69,000 metric tons every year. Over 80 percent of the project will be covered by federal grants.

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