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What if raising fuel prices kill flying?
2008-08-21

Generally, I've felt that raising fuel prices are mostly a good thing. The higher price makes fuel closer in cost to the actual environmental cost, which does more for decreasing usage than any international agreement on greenhouse gases. There are downsides, of course, in terms of cost pressure on those least able to absorb it, or even food problems... though those may be more due to stupid government subsidies for idiotic things like corn-based ethanol.

But in the back of my mind, there has been one big fear of high fuel prices: the end of air travel. No one likes flying on commercial airlines, but people do love what air travel does give them: far flung vacations, trips back home for the holidays, trips far from home for the holidays, face to face business meetings, Amazon prime and other next-day shipping.... The New Republic has an article on The End of Aviation, which discusses this very possibility. The author seems to think that greenhouse/carbon taxes are more likely to harm airlines than fuel prices, but anything like this is such a radical change to our way of life that who knows how it would actually shake out. If kerosene based fuels are really the only way to economically fly, would jets be the last thing we'd spend our "limited" fuel on? If we do succeed in creating cheap alternative energy, and use that for the majority of our transportation and other needs, would that actually cause the price of oil to drop as our need for it dried up? I'm sure that think tanks and policy houses can create scenarios and studies of whether these are possible.... I'm generally an optimist, usually in the "ingenuity" and "technology" category mentioned at the end of the article, so I'm not too worried about it happening.

I will say this, there is a very big opening for some real video conferencing solutions.


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