New US law shields billionaires from public accountability for private jet emissions

New US law shields billionaires from public accountability for private jet emissions

A new law in the United States will prevent billionaires from being held accountable for their jet emissions by keeping passengers of private planes anonymous.

A recent amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorisation bill allows private plane owners to anonymise their registration information. This makes it significantly more difficult to track private plane activity, addressing longstanding complaints from celebrities and billionaires.

Private jet owners had to register their aircraft with the public FAA civil registry, enabling tracking through open radar mapping. The new law allows jet owners to hide their personal identifying information, making tracking much harder.

Prominent people like Elon Musk and Taylor Swift have faced heat in the past after a student named Jack Sweeney tracked their private aircraft use and estimated how much carbon pollution their air travel was causing.

Celebrities facing scrutiny over private jet travel have been pushing for privacy. Musk threatened legal action against Mr Sweeney and later banned him from Twitter after acquiring the platform which he renamed X. Mr Sweeney is now back on X.

Security concerns have also been raised about public tracking of private jets, dividing public opinion.

Tracking of private jets has revealed the significant environmental impact of frequent private air travel by some of the world’s wealthiest people.

For example, Swift’s jets reportedly emitted 1,200 tons of CO2 in 2023, far exceeding the average American’s emissions.

Transparency around private jet use has affected the public image of celebrities, with Swift’s air travel habits drawing particular scrutiny. The Independent has contacted Swift’s representatives for comment.

A report by Minimum Deposit Casinos claimed that other celebrities such as Pitbull, Drake and Kylie Jenner have been responsible for even more carbon pollution through private jet travel.

Despite some justification being offered for their frequent air travel, such as Swift’s tours, the environmental impact of jet use by the rich and famous remains a point of contention.

There are concerns the new law may shield the wealthy from public accountability for their environmental footprint.

Mr Sweeney, however, wrote on X that it was still possible to track private jets despite the new amendment.

“Let this be said that this doesn’t prevent us from tracking jets. We can still figure out who’s who via context clues,” he said.

“Quite possibly it makes me want to push even harder on tracking.”

As private jets carry fewer passengers compared to commercial flights, they burn far more fuel and therefore cause far more CO2 emissions per passenger per trip.

Private jet travel has surged in the US in the past few years and now accounts for one in every six flights. But private jet travellers pay just two per cent of the taxes used to fund the FAA, according to a report published in May 2023 by the Institute for Policy Studies and Patriotic Millionaires.