European Union officials, more or less reflecting the preferences of European Union voters, tend to be more concerned about global warming than the rest of the world. The EU recently passed legislation that forces all airlines flying into Europe to pay for the CO2 that they dumped into the atmosphere during the flight (we're being a little glib here: what they actually did was incorporate aviation into the EU's existing emissions trading system, which thereby forces airlines to purchase carbon credits to cover their emissions, which theoretically leverages market incentives to encourage biofuel innovation, but close enough).
The European airline industry has long been preparing for these schemes. Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa both have successful biofuel projects, and the EU even runs a huge public/private initiative to commercialize airline biofuels. Meanwhile, while some domestic US airlines have also been trying to play the biofuel game, they're simply not on the same level. Airlines from the rest of the world aren't even trying.
And so the EU's legislation was immediately met by a 26-nation "coalition of the unwilling"including the US, China, India, and Russiawhich called on the Europeans to drop the regulations. China even banned its airlines from paying into the program. We're not sure what the EU expected when it decided to fine the non-European world for not living up to European standards, but suffice to say that the global reaction wasn't exactly unpredictable.
As of today it looks like the US is going to follow China's lead and outright ban American airlines from participating. The Senate passed a bill similar to one already passed in the House to do exactly that, and when the final legislation is hammered out the President will sign it.
The Europeans are of course sputtering with rage"absolutely arrogant...unprecedented step to thwart legal standards...ignorant"but there's not much they can do. They can threaten to start a trade war, but with Europe convulsing economically they're not going to ban half the world's tourists from visiting.
Hopefully the food fight will remain a sideshow that everyday travelers don't have to worry about.
[Photo: NguyenDai / Flickr]