UPS vows to slash air fleet's fuel use, emissions

United Parcel Service Inc. aims to cut its airline fleet's greenhouse gas emissions 42 percent from 1990 levels during the next decade by using less fossil fuel in its jets.

UPS currently operates the world's ninth-largest private airline fleet, with 228 jumbo jets in service and 314 more chartered aircraft. The Atlanta-based company said in a sustainability report today that it plans to invest in more fuel-efficient aircraft models, introduce biofuels, reduce runway idling and optimize flight routes, among other things, to slash its fuel costs and emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

"Our customers are asking us to do this and are looking for green partners," said Lynnette McIntire, a company spokeswoman. "We are a huge part of their supply chain."

Aviation accounts for about 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, or about 2.7 percent of the nation's overall carbon footprint, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

UPS's direct and indirect emissions totaled 15.4 million metric tons of CO2 in 2008 -- or about 1.42 pounds of CO2 per available ton mile, according to today's report. The company's airline fleet accounted for almost 53 percent of those emissions.


UPS aims to cut its aircraft fleet's emissions to 1.24 pounds of CO2 per available ton mile in 2020 from 2.13 pounds per ton mile in 1990. The company projects the emissions cuts in concert with a 38 percent fuel-efficiency gain over the same period.

Today's report did not specify which aircraft models and biofuels UPS plans to introduce to its fleet during the next decade.

"We're looking at a lot of different options," McIntire said.

Rival FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) is pursuing a similar strategy to gain a competitive edge.

FedEx Chairman, President and CEO Fred Smith said in April that his Memphis, Tenn.-based company will attempt to get 30 percent of its fuel from petroleum alternatives by 2030.

FedEx will soon switch from MD-11s to Boeing 777s for its long-range, international routes. The company will also phase out Boeing 727s for 757 models, which are 47 percent more fuel-efficient, Smith noted in a Washington, D.C., speech.

"These planes carry more people and cargo, thus making fewer trips and requiring less fuel per payload," Smith said. "They operate more efficiently and produce fewer emissions."

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