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How heavy bombers hurt the climate

Friday 12 Mar 21 12:00pm


THE UNITED States Airforce B-52 bomber that flew over Wairarapa during last month’s air show emitted as much carbon dioxide as 130 average mid-size cars emit per year in New Zealand.

A US Air Force Global Strike Public Affair Office spokesperson told Carbon News the return trip from Guam to New Zealand used approximately 180,000 pounds of aviation fuel.

A tonne of burnt aviation fuel emits about 3.15 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The 180,000 pounds of aviation fuel used by the B-52 equates to 81.6 tonne of aviation fuel resulting in approximately 257 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.


Carbon News asked energy expert and IPCC lead author Emeritus Professor Ralph Sims to put that into perspective.




This is what he said: “A medium car travelling, say, 12,000 km per year produces around 2 tonnes of CO2, so the B-52 is roughly equivalent to 130 cars per year or one car driving around 1.5 million kilometres.”


At current prices, 180,000 pounds of aviation fuel costs about $US37,000.


In 2017 Boeing released a promotional video touting the environmental benefits of replacing the engines on the air force’s fleet of 76 B-52 Stratofortress bombers. The animated ad claimed new engines could cut emissions to just 5% of the original ones.


The spokesperson in the video says the air force was in the process of evaluating a number of industry proposals to replace the ageing B-52 engines.



“'Re-engining' will generate long-term fuel cost-savings, decrease the number of tankers required to support bomber missions, and offer large maintenance cost savings,” he said.




“Industry figures show that installing new engines on the fleet would pay for itself in the 2040 timeframe, achieving up to 25 to 30 per cent fuel savings.”


Carbon News has been unable to find any estimates of the likely environmental impacts of bombs dropped from B-52s. 


Between 1964 and 1973, B-52s dropped more than 260 million bombs on Laos alone, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and massive environmental damage.



Story copyright © Carbon News 2021
Related Topics: Airlines | Aviation | Energy


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