It is backing carbon capture — the nascent technology designed to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
United Airlines is the first major U.S. air carrier to take a step toward trying to remove some of the greenhouse gases spewed by it and every other airline, pollution that is driving up global temperatures.
For United, it’s an alluring project. Governments, particularly in Europe, are beginning to crack down on emissions from airlines. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time regulated greenhouse gas emissions from commercial aircraft, although environmental groups say the rules are so lax as to not make a difference. United is increasingly focused on its voluntary goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 — good publicity at a time of growing alarm about climate change.
But it may also be placing an early bet that carbon capture technology could — with the help of federal tax credits — prove profitable as the globe races for ways to cut the pollution that threatens the planet.
“This crisis will end,” United chief executive Scott Kirby wrote on Medium last month, referring to the pandemic. “That’s why we’re keeping our focus on another crisis that will force all of us to change our behavior in far more dramatic ways than the pandemic ever did: the crisis of a changing climate. The longer we wait, the more drastic those changes will have to be.”
United has declined to say how much it is investing.
Steve Oldham, chief executive