Inside Boeing’s net-zero vision

By Aaron Karp

November 1, 2023

The two companies that manufacture the vast majority of the world’s airliners, Airbus and Boeing, have diametrically opposed visions about the kind of aircraft and fuels that will be required if the air transport industry is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In our September issue, we took a close look at Airbus’ vision, “A Manhattan Project for the climate.” Now, Aaron Karp looks at Boeing’s thinking.

A Manhattan Project for the climate

By Paul Marks

September 1, 2023

Even if a new breed of aircraft powered by hydrogen were available by 2035, that might not be fast enough to help much with the industry’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Paul Marks takes us inside the technical challenges facing hydrogen aircraft — and the case for vastly increasing the resources currently applied to the necessary technologies and infrastructure.

The dark side of green

By Keith Button

June 1, 2023

Researchers are beginning to weigh the environmental trade-offs associated with decarbonizing air travel by switching to hydrogen combustion, hydrogen fuel cells and lithium batteries. Keith Button tells the story.

Harvesting sunlight in space

By Paul Marks

April 1, 2023

The emergence of SpaceX’s massive and reusable Starship rocket, alongside advances in robotic spacecraft assembly, could finally fuel the sci-fi dream of spacecraft collecting all the solar energy humanity will ever need and beaming it down to Earth in the form of microwaves for conversion into limitless carbon-free electricity. Paul Marks spoke to the developers hoping to make this dream reality.

The bridge to net-zero

By Cat Hofacker

March 1, 2023

What’s the solution for achieving net-zero air travel by 2050? Hydrogen? Electrification? Rushing sustainable aviation fuel into today’s jets? At least part of the answer could take flight in 2028. Cat Hofacker looks at the history and promise of Boeing’s Transonic Truss-Braced Wing demonstrator.

Putting the “sustainable” in SAF

By Karen Kwon

May 1, 2022

The airline industry is anxious to get on the right side of the climate change issue sooner rather than later. Karen Kwon tells us about a fuel with a limitless feedstock that could be the way to net-zero, provided it can be produced in high enough quantities.

Space transportation’s pollution conundrum

By Alyssa Tomlinson

January 1, 2022

Moving about by trains, automobiles and aircraft began without consideration for the environmental effects of the emissions from these machines. Is humanity about to repeat this disregard, this time for transportation to space? Perhaps, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Alyssa Tomlinson tells the story.

Jet fuel from smokestacks

By Keith Button

August 24, 2021

The air transport industry lacks enough suppliers of sustainable aviation fuel to meet the anticipated demand as airlines become more aggressive about reining in their carbon footprints and more travelers take to the air. Keith Button describes one company’s unique approach to meeting the demand.

The way to net-zero

By Keith Button

June 1, 2021

The world’s top two commercial aircraft manufacturers have radically different views about how to curb the carbon footprint of air travel between now and 2050. Airbus’ vision of developing hydrogen-powered aircraft for all but the longest routes has produced an air of excitement, while Boeing’s caution about hydrogen could provide a reality check. Keith Button spoke to executives from both companies. Here is what he learned.

Curbing contrails

By Keith Button

May 1, 2021

As surprising as it might be, contrails exceed carbon dioxide as jet travel’s greatest contributor to global warming. Reduce the contrails, and you could immediately soften the sector’s climate impact. Achieving that could be the hitherto unspoken benefit of shifting aircraft to sustainable aviation fuels derived from crop residue or food waste. Keith Button spoke to scientists who are measuring the effects.

Decarbonizing by 2050: Optimists, pessimists and realists

April 1, 2021

The air transportation sector once believed that the best it could do globally speaking would be to reduce its net-carbon output by 50% below 2005 levels by 2050. That view placed the sector out of sync with what the United Nations has called a “global rallying cry” and “race” toward a net-zero economy by 2050. Now, a shift is underway that could sync up the sector with those embracing the more ambitious goal.