Frank LoBiondo’s Chance to Lead on Climate Change

After a year with record high temperatures, extreme drought, and horrific wildfires, our elected leaders may finally be moving past their longstanding political impasse. Ten of the more moderate Republican representatives have signed on to a call for action on climate change. Doing so, they are bucking the entrenched position of their party, which has been to deny that climate change is connected to excessive consumption, particularly of fossil fuels.

The Environmental Stewardship Resolution was released last week, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson, of New York: “This is a call for action to study how humans are impacting our environment and to look for consensus on areas where we can take action to mitigate the risks and balance our impacts.”

20150917cpy.. F.LoBiondo bio picOne of the newest cosponsors is Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from New Jersey. Congressman LoBiondo is in a very powerful position, because he is a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Aviation. As such, he is one of a tiny few U.S. leaders who can steer FAA’s future. A future that needs to include aviation fee and tax reform, so that aviation operators are strongly incentivized to minimize fuel consumption.

Congressman LoBiondo’s online biography notes his roots and includes this:

“Drawing from his childhood love of the outdoors, Frank has always maintained a strong commitment to protecting the environment. Throughout his time in public office, he has worked to protect fragile wildlife and wetlands areas and stood up for projects that will preserve and restore the New Jersey coastline. His work in Congress has won recognition from many environmental groups including the Audubon Society, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.”

With that, it seems entirely conceivable that Congressman LoBiondo could merge his background with his power, and perform the biggest accomplishment of his political career: take a REAL stand for the environment. In one fell swoop, he could significantly reduce both noise and carbon pollution, while also ensuring more people get direct airline flights, cutting out many of those out-of-the-way stops at today’s mega-hub airports.

His subcommittee is currently being worked over by lobbyists, all agitating for taking ATC out of FAA (sometimes called ‘ATC privatization, or ‘ANSP autonomy’). The lobbyists dress the proposal up as if it will make things better, failing to clarify the main beneficiaries will be themselves, not the Public. Ignoring what the Public wants/needs, FAA and the industry WANT a federally chartered, non-profit organization because it will further insulate them from accountability. In reality, the players in today’s Av-Gov Complex want to be accountable only to themselves (a.k.a., the ‘stakeholders’).

So, forget about ‘privatizing’ ATC, at least for now. Our Congress, starting with the Subcommittee on Aviation, should tell Mr. Huerta and the boys, and under no uncertain terms…

…there will be no reduction of Congressional FAA oversight until FAA shows reliable and accountable performance and transparency. Until FAA cleans house, this Congress will never — and no Congress should ever — reward the incompetence and arrogance being demonstrated by the employees and their tone-deaf agency.

In other words, FAA needs to clean up their growing NextGen mess; give local authority back to local officials, so communities can manage aviation noise; become transparent.

Quit serving only the industry … start serving the taxpayers.

So, What Might LoBiondo’s Next Move Be?

Here’s an idea. LoBiondo should move to implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax for all aviation fuels.

We could very effectively use aviation as an example, to demonstrate how well the revenue-neutral carbon tax concept can work, and to set a high standard for the other energy consumption sectors to follow. Nobody denies that we need to vigorously manage our entire fossil fuels diet (gas, oil, and coal, for transportation, heating, industry and power generation). So, why not start with a focused program, aimed solely at aviation carbon consumption?

We need a steep carbon fee and dividend (CFD), and we need to rationalize the revenue base that funds ATC and other FAA programs. The smartest way would be to charge user fees based on the factors that matter today: a user fee for runway access, an ATC charge proportionate to distance flown, and carbon fees in proportion to total fuel consumed. In combination, these changes would fully replace the current tax/fee system, and would yield enormous efficiencies and dividends. For example, a steep aviation carbon fee and dividend…

  • …would strongly encourage the major airlines away from routing passengers via out-of-the-way mega-hubs, to instead set schedules that route more passengers nonstop or via smaller, more manageable hubs aligned close to the direct route of flight.
  • …would impose natural limiting forces, to discourage overdeveloping hubs into mega-hubs. We have seen enough; at some point any hub airport grows to become too big; there is a diseconomy of hyper scale.
  • …would make it much more expensive for a single banker, CEO, politician, or other privileged jetsetter to consume thousands of pounds of fuel per hour in a bizjet, on unnecessary business flights or when zipping off for ski trips and golf junkets; and,
  • …would quickly bring relief to impacted neighbors suffering from nonstop aviation noise, particularly at the busiest mega-hub airport cities: Chicago and Atlanta.

See also:
  • 9/17/2015 – Bernie Sanders Slams GOP for Ignoring ‘Planetary Crisis’ of Climate Change at the second second GOP debate.