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February 07, 2007

GLOBAL WARMING UPDATE: "The Bush administration has agreed to provide House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with regular access to an Air Force passenger jet, but the two sides are negotiating whether she will get the big aircraft she wants and who she may take as passengers, according to congressional and administration sources. . . . The defense source, who asked not to be named, termed her request 'carte blanche,' saying she wanted a plane that could carry an entourage just like President Bush, who flies on Air Force One, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who also always flies on military planes." Well, she is third in the line of succession, but you don't need an entourage for that. Dennis Hastert used a commuter-sized jet.

UPDATE: A reader recommends the C-20, an Air Force variant of the Gulfstream III. "It has the range for non stop San Fran to DC, and is faster than a big jet on less fuel." Looks nice to me, though it does produce something like 10,000 lbs of C02 per hour. Still, that's a lot less than the jet that Pelosi actually wants, I guess. My reader continues: "Of course it will carry fewer staff, and has only one flight attendant." Quel horreur! But leadership demands sacrifices, especially if we are to save the planet from the scourge of global warming.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Further thoughts from Rich Karlgaard.

MORE: Some greenhouse perspective:

The typical American is responsible for 10 tons of CO2 emissions annually through their direct energy use of home, cars and air travel, and about 24 tons of CO2 including their purchases, activities and the other services we all share throughout the economy.

By comparison, a Gulf Stream III business jet (10-12 passenger) from New York to Los Angeles will emit around 31 tons of CO2 during the 6 hour flight.

And remember, that's the small jet, not the much bigger one that Pelosi wants. Flying commercial, of course, is far more greenhouse-friendly. According to this calculator from British Airways, a one-way one-passenger flight from Washington, DC to San Francisco (roughly the same length, though a bit shorter) would produce 0.44 tonnes (0.485 tons) of C02. Even travelling with an "entourage" you're way ahead. Jets full of the hoi polloi aren't as pleasant, but they're much more efficient. Fill the Gulfstream up with people who actually need to travel, of course, and you're doing about as well as the commercial airliner in terms of efficiency, which is why I'm okay on that, but when you get to the bigger planes you're clearly way, way behind -- and if you fill them up with cronies and campaign contributors just because you've got extra seats, you aren't really making things better.

MORE: Weirdly, Josh Marshall writes:

After the piece ran in the Times, it came out the Denny Hastert had had just the same use of Air Force jets since 9/11. The difference is that the plane Hastert used won't fly cross-country without refueling. Here's the Times at the story again today. It's basically a rehash. But they again fail to mention this salient point, which more or less exposes the whole story as bogus.

But actually the story does mention that point quite clearly:

Mr. Hastert used an Air Force commuter-type jet to travel to and from his district. Mr. Hastert gained the access for security reasons after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Previously, the House speaker, who is second in the line of succession to the presidency, used commercial flights for such trips.

Mrs. Pelosi wants a larger aircraft that can fly to her home district of San Francisco nonstop. She also wants to be able to ferry other members of the congressional delegation, family members and her staff.

Hastert had a commuter jet. Pelosi wants a bigger one, partly for nonstop range and partly to accommodate an "entourage." That seems clear to me, and to others -- it's why my reader recommended the long-range C20, above, a commuter-sized jet that won't accommodate an entourage. Meanwhile, here's another bit from the story:

The congressional source said the speaker's office requested an Air Force plane to take her to a weekend Democratic retreat in Williamsburg, but the Pentagon declined.

The source said Mr. Hastert on one occasion used an Air Force plane for such an event. The Air Force later determined it was a mistake, and such flights were not repeated.

The source said the Pentagon will likely give in to Mrs. Pelosi's requests for a large plane and travel entourage, given her and Mr. Murtha's power over defense spending.

Pelosi seems to want to establish herself as a sort of Junior President. This seems unwise to me, and it's certainly bad for Hillary -- why vote for the first woman President if we've already got one?

STILL MORE: Here's another story:

Republicans are taking issue with the size of the plane Pelosi has requested. Pelosi had asked for access to a C-32 plane, a military version of the Boeing 757-200. . . .

Hastert, an Illinois Republican, flew in a small commuter-sized jet. Pelosi and her aides say that because her congressional district is in California, her security would require a larger plane that can fly coast to coast without refueling.

"It's not a question of size, it's a question of distance," Pelosi said Wednesday. "We want an aircraft that can reach California."

Navy Cmdr. Jefrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that Pelosi would be offered "shuttle service for no more than 10 passengers between Washington and San Francisco only based on aircraft availability."

"This does not guarantee nonstop transport," Gordon said.

Demanding nonstop service seems a bit much. That's certainly hard for the rest of us to get, in this hub-and-spoke era. And the C-20 above seems to have the range she wants, it's just not as big as a large commercial airliner -- and, really, why should it be?

EVEN MORE: Thuggishness from Murtha:

Late Wednesday afternoon, one of Pelosi's closest allies in the House, Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., chairman of the key Appropriations Committee subcommittee on defense, told CNN that the Pentagon was making "a mistake" by leaking information unfavorable to the speaker "since she decides on the allocations for the Department of Defense."

Nice little Army you got there. Shame if something was to happen to it. However, this story has a lot more detail. It suggests that the C-20 is iffy for coast-to-coast flights, but that the C-37 (basically a military Gulfstream V) is what the Pentagon was offering:

There are four types of planes available at the 89th Airlift wing, at nearby Andrews Air Force Base  the C-20 Hastert once used, C-21s which are even smaller than the C-20 and thus not able to fly nonstop to San Francisco, and the fabled C-32.

There is also the C-37A — a military version of the Gulf Stream 5, which is about the same size as the C-20, but is able to fly nonstop to California. One military source who asked not to be identified says that it may be that Pelosi and her aides were shown a C-37A and didn't understand that it was different and more potent than a C-20, since they look so similar.

Would Pelosi be willing to use a smaller plane than the lavish C-32 as long as it could fly coast to coast?

"Yes," said a Pelosi aide.

Problem solved! Though the Gulfstream V will still make the greenhouse talk ring a bit hollower, I should think.