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Responding to the aviation decarbonization targets outlined by the European Commission recently, United Airlines has shared its intention to be “100% green” by 2050.
The airline plans to partner with the energy company Occidental to keep “millions of metric tons” of carbon dioxide “securely stored deep underground.” The technique formally called “carbon capture and sequestration” (or CCS) is different from carbon offsetting.
While the latter involves investments in building wind farms, planting trees, etc., to compensate for the harmful impact on the atmosphere, CCS plants provide an opportunity to capture carbon directly from the air (or from power plants) and store it underground. At some point, the collected carbon could even be used to extract oil, turning the initiative into a profitable project.
Scott Kirby, CEO at United, said, “The reality is that traditional carbon offset programs simply can’t come close to offsetting the 4,000 times increase in man-made carbon emissions. It’s just mathematically impossible,” said Kirby.
Kirby also promised to continue to invest in alternative fuels that could also play a big part in reducing emissions. Electric and hydrogen propulsion is not suited for a long-haul airline like United.