Loyal reader and commenter Paul Birkeland points me to this USA Today interactive map showing the decline of air travel in the US. It’s an update of a map we reported on last year, back when fuel prices were soaring and more and more planes were remaining earthbound as a result.
Since last year, fuel prices have come back to earth. But with the economy now in a nosedive, it looks like the airlines are cutting back even farther on flights. USA Today now projects that domestic air capacity this March will be down by a little over 8 percent, compared with March ’08. And unlike last year, air travel is on the downturn throughout the Northwest: off 6 percent in Washington, 11 percent in Oregon, and 14 percent in Idaho.
I, for one, am tired of the endless stream of gloomy economic statistics. I want some good news for a change. Still, this particular story fascinates me, since it shows strongly our energy-consuming ways are affected by upticks in fuel prices, and downdrafts in the markets. Apparently, basic economics really do affect our behavior: all the green cajoling and preaching over the last decade or so about the climate impacts of air travel has never had this kind of effect. Which means that, for those of us concerned about how air travel affects the climate, the real trick will be to keep air emissions low even after the economy takes flight again.