Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift

Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with songwriter Taylor Swift after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

A Super Bowl Note to Taylor Swift: Love the Music, Park the Private Jet

Congrats, Taylor, for your talent and decades of consistently great songwriting. You deserve all the accolades and rewards. But I have one request...

I spent a decade, like many parents, chauffeuring pre-teen and teenage girls around to a Taylor Swift soundtrack. I learned every Swift song as it was released and sang along to the chorus in the car. I even went to one of her first stadium concerts with my young Swifties. It was an extraordinary show.

Congrats, Taylor, for your talent and decades of consistently great songwriting. You deserve all the accolades and rewards. Here’s my one request: Give up your private jet.

Those young fans of yours that I used to shuttle around are now campaigning against climate change. They’re organizing to stop new oil, gas, and coal infrastructure from being built. They understand this is the critical decade to shift our trajectory away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources.

Like so many challenges in our country, private jet pollution is increasing alongside inequality.

And they need you, once again, to sing a new song.

I know you’re dealing with a lot of crazy conspiracy theories in right-wing media. In their zeal to denounce you, you even succeeded in getting Fox News to admit that private jet travel contributes to climate change, which is no small feat!

But it’s true. Private jets emit 10 to 20 times more pollutants per passenger than commercial jets. You know it’s wrong — that’s why you cover your face [with an umbrella] when you’re disembarking.

As thousands of private jets — including yours — head to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, we should focus our attention on the considerable harms of this most ecologically damaging form of transportation. Apparently, billionaires are having a hard time finding a parking spot for their jets for the big event. (But the NFL has reportedly reserved you a spot since your interest in football, or at least Travis Kelce, is the biggest audience boost they’ve had in decades.)

We all have that experience of wishing we could be two places at once. I’ve been on a work trip and wished I could zip home for my daughter’s soccer game. But if you really do fly from Tokyo to Las Vegas and then to Melbourne within a few days, you’ll burn an estimated 8,800 gallons of jet fuel and create about 90 tons of carbon emissions. That’s the equivalent of the entire carbon burn of six average U.S. households for an entire year.

Like so many challenges in our country, private jet pollution is increasing alongside inequality. As wealth has concentrated in fewer hands over the last several decades, the demand for private jets has soared. According to a report I co-authored for the Institute for Policy Studies, High Flyers 2023, the number of private jets has grown 133 percent over the last two decades. And just 1 percent of flyers now contribute half of all carbon emissions from aviation.

At a time when our country should be investing bigger in renewable infrastructure, this demand is driving a push to expand private jet infrastructure instead.

Outside Boston, a private developer wants to triple the private jet hangar capacity at Hanscom Field, the region’s largest private jet airport. Our research found that at least half the flights in and out of Hanscom Field are to luxury and recreation destinations, such as Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Aspen, and West Palm Beach.

More and more Americans are asking: Should we set off a carbon bomb of emissions so the ultra-rich can fly to their vacation destinations? And more and more are answering no. In Massachusetts, a grassroots coalition called Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom and Everywhere is calling on the governor to reject the Hanscom project for environmental reasons.

The private jet lobby has answered these concerns with greenwashing spin about “sustainable aviation fuels.” They’d like us all to believe we’ll be jetting around on food waste in a decade. But scientific bodies, such as the UK Royal Society, have pointed out that achieving “jet zero” would require shifting millions of acres of agricultural land out of food production and into fuel. It’s just not realistic.

More and more Americans are asking: Should we set off a carbon bomb of emissions so the ultra-rich can fly to their vacation destinations?

Unfortunately, “carbon offsets” don’t meaningfully address the problem either. Research shows these incentives, where polluting industries or their customers pay a little extra to “offset” their emissions with conservation efforts, don’t reduce deforestation or other climate change drivers.

Banning or restricting private jet travel would be one of the easiest paths to reducing emissions if it weren’t a luxury consumed by the most wealthy and powerful people on the planet. But climate advocates are still working to find a way. Here in the U.S., we’re trying to make sure private jet users pay the real financial and ecological costs of their luxury travel. In Congress, Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Nydia Velazquez have proposed hiking the tax on private jet fuel.

Banning or restricting private jet travel would be one of the easiest paths to reducing emissions if it weren’t a luxury consumed by the most wealthy and powerful people on the planet.

But there’s good news, Taylor: If you ground your jet, you won’t be alone. Lots of people are rethinking jet travel. The Premier League UK soccer teams are considering a ban on short-hop flights. And after learning about the climate costs of private jet travel, millionaire Stephen Prince publicly decided to sell his jet.

What’s more, a generation of music stars toured without jets, taking the proverbial tour bus. And it sparked a lot of great songs about this amazing land. Taylor, if you want to be green, stay on the ground. Your fans will love you and the future generations will thank you.

I believe there’s a song there.

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