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Obama Moves To Regulate CO2 From Airplanes

First tailpipes, then power plants and now airplanes. The Obama administration announced another major effort to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from airplanes after the Environmental Protection Agency linked airliners to global warming.

The EPA issued a proposal Wednesday declaring that CO2 from airliners threatens public health because it contributes to global warming. The agency says it’s doing this in conjunction with an international effort to bring the airline industry under global carbon dioxide standards for commercial jets.

Republicans have already vowed to challenge the EPA’s proposal to regulate airline emissions, saying new federal regulations would increase travel costs and fuel prices.

“The sky is the limit when it comes to how much of the U.S. economy the EPA wants to control,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith said in a statement.

“The EPA today released a finding that emissions from commercial airplanes are harmful to human health, which opens the door for new regulations,” Smith added. “Such regulations would increase the price of airfare for Americans and harm our domestic carriers.”

Environmentalists, on the other hand, celebrated the news, arguing regulating airline emissions is necessary to fighting global warming.

“With today’s announcement, President Obama has a unique and extremely important opportunity to demonstrate leadership not only domestically but around the world,” William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, told The New York Times.

The EPA says international rules over airline emissions are expected to be completed in 2016, adding that the U.S. proposal will set “the necessary foundation for the development and implementation of a domestic aircraft standard.”

This marks another major effort by the Obama administration to “green up” the U.S.’s image ahead of United Nations climate talks in Paris slated for later this year. The administration also recently announced carbon dioxide standards for heavy trucks and is set to finalize CO2 limits for power plants this summer.

The EPA says airliners “emit roughly 11 percent of [greenhouse gas] emissions from the U.S. transportation sector and 29 percent of [greenhouse gas] emissions from all aircraft globally.”

“Today’s action supports the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions from large sources of carbon pollution,” the agency said in a press release.

The airline industry says it’s already working on ways to lower its carbon footprint by increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing use. Some airline companies are looking into using biofuels to power their aircraft, but biofuels are expensive and less dense when it comes to energy output.

The New York Times notes the challenges airlines already face in trying to reduce emissions. The Times reports that the aviation sector “is among the fastest-­growing sources of global greenhouse gas emissions as air travel becomes more affordable and more people travel around the world.”

“Over the last fifty years, the fuel efficiency of jetliners has increased by 70 percent. Incentives are already in place to make air travel more energy efficient,” Smith said. “This proposal is the next leg of a nonstop journey by the EPA to control how Americans live, work and travel.”

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