Saving Mother Earth? Green New Deal? 

Technology and free enterprise is more likely to do it than budget busting and impractical government solutions. Risking cries of “heresy” and “get ye to the guillotine” from those who demand an end to flying and meat consumption, I say, “Profits are the answer!” Yes, profits.

Delta Air Lines is the “big dog” in Atlanta, carrying over 80 percent of originating traffic. On March 31, 2019, the carrier announced solid profit growth with a $220 million contribution to 2020 profit sharing. The April 2019 issue of “Delta Sky” magazine featured a commentary by CEO Ed Bastion titled “Doing Our Part.” Delta executives, employees and shareholders breathe the same air we all do and it’s gratifying to see profits being plowed back into “good citizen projects.

Jet fuel counts for 98 percent of Delta’s emissions, and a goal is a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. Rapidly retiring older aircraft, Delta will replace 25 percent of its fleet over three years with newer more fuel-efficient jets. New composite materials for airframes makes planes lighter, reducing fuel burn. Carbon brakes reduce weight by 700 pounds.

On a recent flight to San Diego in first class, food was served on glass plates with real silverware. Delta is eliminating single-use plastics, including stir sticks, wrappers, utensils and straws from aircraft and airport clubs. More electric vehicles are being used as ground equipment.

Delta has a neutral carbon offset program. By calculating the emissions output per flyer, the company invests in global offset projects. One project involves the biodiversity Conservation Coast project in Guatemala. It protects forests which are a critical migratory bird corridor.  

LanzaTech, a biotech startup with headquarters and labs in Chicago, and with offices in London, Shanghai, and India, noted that rabbits are highly efficient in turning plant food into energy. A bacteria found in the gut of a rabbit can help turn factory carbon emissions (pollution) into ethanol. The products can be blended with car gasoline or blended into jet fuel. LanzaTech estimates its products reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 60 percent compared to equivalent products derived from fossil fuels. Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airline plans to fly a B-747 from Orlando to London in an eco-friendly way using a LanzaTech blend.

The Delta magazine featured an interview with Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss explorer who flew around the world in a solar powered aircraft. Piccard created the Solar Impulse Foundation. Focused on air, water and plastic pollution, climate change and the energy crisis, Piccard’s team is vetting 1,000 innovations for environmental benefits and economic viability. Environmentalists worry about emissions from the eastern end of westbound bovines and other critters, hence a drive to turn human carnivores into vegans. Good news! Piccard says there is an animal feed additive that makes cows produce 30 percent less flatulence-based methane. Beano for cows. Burger lovers rejoice! 

Piccard says there are a myriad of carbon reducing technologies “just under the radar.” “What we need now is for governments to establish the legal framework that will bring these innovations to the market and take them from anecdotal to mainstream.” Reasoning that saving the planet through good business is good business, he opines, “Environmentalism and capitalism need not be in opposition.” See www.solarimpulse.com 

Academia is joining the hunt for Earth-saving solutions. Danny Ducat, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Michigan State University, leads teams exploring ways sun power can help to create biodegradable plastics that do not require fossil fuels. Plastics aren’t going away, he says, but “chemistry may hold the answer to more efficient and sustainable ways of making better biodegradables.”

It takes profits to create new technologies and to fund research. It takes a growing economy based on responsible free enterprise to pull people out of poverty. In China, India and other third world countries people still burn highly polluting coal, charcoal, and even animal dung, for heat and cooking. Ban fossil fuels and within a decade there wouldn’t be a tree left standing. 

Bernie Sanders said, “Capitalism does a number of things very well: it helps create an entrepreneurial spirit; it gets people motivated to come up with new ideas, and that’s a good thing.” Past pronouncements can come back to haunt presidential candidates, but my money is on the “entrepreneurial spirit” to make more progress in dealing with climate change and the environment than choking government regulations and boondoggles like the Obama Administration’s tax-payer funded Solyndra fiasco. Entrepreneurs with their own money at risk seem to get better results. Go figure!

 

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603.  Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA which otherwise is unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He is a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®).

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