The carbon cost of Taylor Swift’s possible Tokyo-Super Bowl jet trip – The Washington Post

A previous version of this story said a Dassault Falcon 900 typically sells for $29 million. It typically sells for $25 million, according to Guardian Jet. The story also said the operating cost for the Dassault Falcon 900 was about $13.9 million per year. Guardian Jet has since updated its estimate to $4.9 million per year. The story has been corrected.
Few celebrities have had their jet travel come under as intense scrutiny in recent months as Taylor Swift, who has crisscrossed the country in a private plane to watch her boyfriend Travis Kelce play for the Kansas City Chiefs. Fox News blasted her on Sunday as she arrived in Baltimore to attend the AFC championship game, tweeting that her jet was “belching tons of CO2 emissions.”
Private jet trips rank as the most carbon-intensive ways to travel, generating nine times as much carbon per passenger as flying commercial, according to a 2023 paper from University College London. And now that the Chiefs have made it to the Super Bowl, many are wondering whether Swift will fly the roughly 14,000 miles it would take to get from a concert in Tokyo on Feb. 10 to the game in Las Vegas on Feb. 11 and then to Melbourne in time for her next show on Feb. 16, reigniting the debate over whether owners of private planes should be held responsible for the planet-warming emissions they generate.
Some environmentalists are pushing for an outright ban on private jets, including Greta Thunberg and the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, who called for a ban while protesting at a private jet airport near London on Jan. 27. Others, such as Bill Gates, have touted carbon offsets as a way to counteract emissions from private jet travel, particularly if the trips they make are to promote good causes.
Swift’s publicist has said she buys carbon offsets to compensate for her jet travel, but didn’t respond to a request for more detail about what kind or how many offsets the artist has bought. There’s a wide range in quality and oversight in the offset market, and many offsets are meaningless.
But legal scholars and Congress members are pushing for another way to make private jet owners such as Swift pay for their emissions: taxes.
Last year, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced the Fueling Alternative Transportation with a Carbon Aviation Tax (FATCAT) Act, which would raise the tax on private jet fuel from $0.22 per gallon to $1.95. The extra money would go toward expanding railroads, improving public transit and monitoring air quality near airports.
If Swift flew from Tokyo to Las Vegas to Melbourne in her Dassault Falcon 900 jet, the roughly 29-hour round trip might burn about 8,800 gallons of fuel and create about 90 tons of carbon emissions. That’s more than all the carbon emissions that six average Americans will produce this year.
At the current tax rate, Swift would pay about $1,900 in taxes on the fuel for the flight. Under the FATCAT Act, she would pay about $17,000.
Since Markey and Velázquez introduced the bill on July 19, it has not advanced and shows no sign of passing.
Some countries, including Canada, have taken a different approach: taxing the sale of private jets. The United States once taxed private jets. Between 1991 and 1993, Americans paid an extra 10 percent for planes, boats, cars, furs and jewelry above a certain price.
As a result, sales for U.S. luxury goods dropped, and some Americans avoided the tax by buying their luxuries abroad. Congress repealed most of the law within two years of passing it.
“It’s sort of held up as an example of a tax disaster,” said Victoria Haneman, a law professor and Associate Dean of Research and Innovation at Creighton University School of Law. The perceived failure of the 1991 law helped kill then-president Barack Obama’s proposal for tighter taxes on private jets in 2011, Haneman said.
Swift’s Dassault Falcon 900 typically sells for about $25 million, according to an estimate from the private jet brokerage Guardian Jet. She also has a second plane, a Dassault Falcon 7X, which sells for about $24 million. A 10 percent tax on both of these sales would net $4.9 million.
Private jet owners often count the cost of flying as a business expense, meaning they subtract the price of the jet, fuel, pilots, maintenance and so on from their income when they pay taxes, according to Haneman.
“We could do something as simple as denying business deductions for private jet travel,” she said. “If you decide to travel by private jet, you bear the expense of it.”
The annual cost of operating Swift’s Falcon 900 jet is about $4.9 million per year, according to Guardian Jet. The Falcon 7X costs a mere $5.3 million per year. Combined, Swift might potentially deduct something like $10 million per year from her taxable income — although that wouldn’t make much of a dent in the roughly $2 billion Swift made last year, according to Billboard estimates.
But even the 1991 luxury tax made an exception for business jets, and Haneman said she isn’t holding her breath for U.S. lawmakers to exclude private jets from business tax deductions. “That would be extraordinarily controversial,” she said.
Of course, there are alternatives to flying private jets in the first place: Celebrities could fly first class — or stay home and watch the Super Bowl on TV.

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