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United Airlines shares plan to become '100% green' by 2050

Dec. 10, 2020
3 min read
United Airlines shares plan to become '100% green' by 2050
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It's impossible to operate a global airline in 2020 without negatively impacting the environment. But with United Airlines' latest sustainability plan, that hopefully won't be the case forever.

Over the next three decades, United plans to go "100% green" — primarily through the use of a technique called "carbon capture and sequestration," or CCS, which could prove to be far more impactful than the industry's current "carbon offset" approach.

Carbon offsets typically provide funding for projects that reduce our carbon footprint through the use of environmentally friendly practices, like building wind farms or planting trees. While those programs may play a part in United's overall plan, they won't move the needle to the extent the airline truly needs.

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Through a series of investments, United will help provide the funding necessary to build CCS plants, which can then capture carbon from industrial sources like power plants — or even directly from the air — and store it underground, so it's unable to enter the atmosphere.

From there, the carbon could even be used to help extract oil, through a technique called enhanced oil recovery, helping CCS plants turn a profit — and, ultimately, making it possible for United to monetize its investment.

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While it might not seem like the ideal time for United to be making new financial commitments — considering the carrier's steep pandemic-related lossesCEO Scott Kirby says the recent crisis has served to highlight the need to take action.

While new aircraft investments help, they don't move the needle enough. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

“The pandemic has, if anything, emphasized the importance of what we’re doing. While we were planning to invest in this, work on this project before the pandemic, what has become clear during the pandemic, even more starkly, is that we are a part of a global community, and everything that happens everywhere around the globe affects us.”

Kirby has also pledged to continue to invest in alternative fuels, which could help reduce emissions as well, though he acknowledged that electric and hydrogen propulsion aren't feasible solutions for a long-haul airline like United.

Investing in newer planes won't have a significant enough impact, either. While long-haul aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner help reduce emissions by employing lighter materials and other design improvements, they still contribute a significant amount of carbon to the environment.

Kirby hopes United's latest move will get the industry thinking about CCS as a potential solution as well. “It’s easy to think ‘I’m doing my part,' by using traditional carbon offsets," Kirby said. "I want to encourage them that that’s not enough, and to do more. And if we all do that, we really can solve this problem.”

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023