April 2015 Energy KFFly the Friendly Skies – an oxymoron if ever there was one. It’s more like flying the un-friendly skies these days as service has become less of a priority. Few experiences are as universal to Americans as the shared degradation and misery of flying on our nation’s air carriers. Airlines have somehow managed to wrap up everything wrong with this country and present it to us as a package deal: income inequality, corporate indifference, dwindling services, automation and skyrocketing prices all combined to make flying a tortuous chore rather than a pleasure.

If you thought late departures, losing luggage and overbooking flights was bad, now travelers can look forward to smaller seats and less leg-room. Boeing is planning to bring its new short-haul 737 MAX aircraft to service in 2017 with 189 seats, compared with the approximately 160 seats that it now has in the 737-800. Budget carrier Ryanair’s version of the new jet will have 200 seats. And this is not just a domestic problem. Europe’s Airbus, which was originally intended to have 180 seats in its A32neo has received permission from the European Aviation Safety Agency to cram in 15 more seats, bringing total passenger capacity to 195.Talk about a tight squeeze, especially when you consider that at least 20% of the population is wider than the standard seat design. Squish!

It’s all in the seat pitch, the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you, and inches count. In fact, the loss of a single inch can mean the difference between a halfway comfortable flight and well, a not so comfortable flight. The industry standard for seat pitch in coach used to be about 33 inches. Today it is closer to 30 or 31 inches. In the new Boeing and Airbus jets, seat pitch could be as low as 27 to 29 inches. The roomiest economy seats you can book on the nation’s four largest airlines are narrower than the tightest economy seats offered in the 1990s.

It might be time to consider the “Knee Defender” — a product that prevents the person in the seat in front of the user from reclining – or to expect a face-plant should he recline. Unfortunately, the Knee Defender comes with its own set of problems, specifically the possibility of getting kicked off the plane. We probably just need to accept these smaller seats and other discomforts of flying as the new normal. On the flip side, perhaps it will encourage Americans to slim down.


  • The U.S. power sector is decarbonizing, with the contribution or renewable energy rising from 8.3% to 12.8% in that last several years and the production and consumption of natural gas hitting record highs in 2014.  Since 2000, 93% of new power capacity built in the U.S. has come from natural gas and renewables. (bcse.org)
  • Natural gas is the cleanest burning conventional fuel, producing 45% less carbon dioxide than coal. (spectraenergy.com)
  • Despite the first-quarter slowdown in U.S. economic growth, which resulted from cold weather and cautious capital investment (particularly related to oil companies), economists expect the slowdown to prove temporary, with economic growth expected to come in between 2.5% to 3% for the year, a stronger pace than most developed economies around the world. (edwardjones.com)
  • High fuel prices have increased interest in alternative fuels from domestic sources. Fat is processed in the U. S., reducing our dependency on foreign, non-renewable fuels. The U. S. produces billions of pounds of fat per year from poultry, beef and pork rendering operations and spent cooking oil. The fat is processed so it can be burned as fuel in industrial boilers and driers. Fat is recognized as an alternative fuel by the U.S. Federal Government. Fat is eligible for a $.50 per gallon incentive payment through the Internal Revenue Service. (fatforfuel.com)
  • For coastal American cities with populations above 50,000 people, about 9% of the land lies below one meter in elevation – and scientists expect about one meter or more  of sea level rise this century. About 36% of the land lies below six meters – and scientists expect enough global warming this century to potentially commit us to a six-meter sea level rise in the longer run. (climatecentral.org)

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