Open skies agreement between EU and US signed

The United States and the European Union have signed an open skies agreement that makes it easier for airlines to buy one another.

This is the second open skies agreement between the two governments. The first open skies agreement took effect in 2008 and opened up transatlantic routes to all carriers. Previously some routes were limited to specific carriers.

This new agreement will allow foreign owners to have a majority stake in an airline. Until now, European airlines could only own 25% of a US carrier, and US airlines could only own 49.9% of a European airline. The new limits have yet to be set and the move still has to be approved by Congress.

The deal also equalizes rules on emissions, fuel, and noise, and establishes a closer cooperation with the carbon trading scheme. European airlines will also now be able to fly in and out of the U.S. without first landing or taking off in the EU. Expect more services to non-EU destinations by EU airlines in the near future.

Heathrow unveils driverless personal transport pods

Buses and shuttles make up a large portion of an airport’s traffic. People need to be shuttled back and forth from parking lots, garages, terminals and rental car lots, and all those vehicles mean congestion and pollution. Heathrow Airport is working on a system that will address both of those issues. The new Personal Transport Pods, or PRTs will run on dedicated tracks and use 50% less energy than the buses they will replace.

Up to four passengers (and their luggage) at a time will enter the futuristic-looking pods and program their destination into a touch-screen. Then the pod does the work, zipping off to the destination at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. The pods are low-energy, battery powered and produce no emissions.

Right now the pods are in the operational testing stage and will only journey from Terminal 5 to the car park, a trip that will take around 5 minutes. According to airport officials, once the system is fully operational, passengers will board at one of three stations and ride in one of 21 total pods. As long as the £25 million project runs smoothly and more funding can be secured, the airport plans expand the service to other terminals.

Ways to live green every day, by Continental

Paging through the Continental in-flight magazine last night, I stumbled upon a few “green living” tips.

For example, did you know that:

  • If Americans used one less package of non-recycled paper napkins, it would save one million trees?
  • Ninety percent of the energy used by your washing machine goes to hear the water? Using the cold cycle is much better.
  • Producing and disposing of all the junk mail distributed in the US each year releases as much CO2 as 2,8 million cars?

Continental gives the following easy tips to live green every day:

  1. When you are not traveling, get your morning coffee in a reusable cup. Americans throw away about 40 billion disposable coffee cups each year
  2. Unplug all chargers (cell phone, iPod, etc) when they are not charging their intended device. This reduces carbon emissions by about 100 pounds per year, per charger.
  3. Speed up your shower. Spending just two minutes less in the shower each day could prevent about 400 pounds of CO2 (in the form of energy used to heat and treat the water) from entering the atmosphere each year.
  4. Cut your air travel by half. Just kidding. These are, after all, tips from Continental Airlines.

EU demands that US airlines pay for carbon dioxide emissions

This past week, European Union transport commissioner Jacques Barrot clearly stated that US must pay for carbon dioxide emissions or risk a curb on flights to Europe. As the Open Skies agreement lifts limits on flight between the US and the EU this month, Barrot is calling for a second phase of the treaty that would demand US airlines to join the EU emission trading scheme, or to create a similar one in the US.

Tension between the US and the EU regarding the airline industry is already high. In February, the Bush administration gave the EU its own expectations — more data should be provided to the American government on European passengers flying to the US — which Barrot deemed as a step “not proportionate” to existing security problems.

While the Bush administration threatened to require citizens of countries that did not comply with its demands to apply for visas, the EU says that if US carriers don’t “go green” they could face equally frustrating consequences. “It’s always possible to imagine reducing the number of flights or suspending certain rights,” Barrot said. That would mean less transatlantic flights, which could subsequently lead to higher prices for passengers.

Car running on compressed air is almost here

A French inventor has promised that he will start selling a car that runs on compressed air within a year, BBC reports. The concept, OneCAT, will be a five-seater with a glass-fiber body, weighing just 350kg and could cost just over $5000. More importantly, it will produce no emissions at all in town.

It will be driven by compressed air stored in carbon-fiber tanks. The tanks can be filled with air from a compressor in just three minutes, which is much quicker than a battery car or it can be plugged into the mains for four hours and an on-board compressor will do the job.

It isn’t exactly a beautiful piece of machinery, but it is what’s on the inside that counts, say the French (probably for the first time ever).