Sustainability in Commercial Aviation: RMI Research Conversation Part Two

Sustainability in Commercial Aviation: RMI Research Conversation Part Two

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For those that care about the mitigation of climate change, it can seem like the list of institutional changes that are needed goes on and on. Luckily we have people like Noah Feingold putting in the time to work on specific and measured solutions.

Noah joined Hot hosts Ben Sonnega and  Heena Singh today as he is starting his second-year MBA/MS graduate program at the Erb Institute. This is a dual-degree program between the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. Noah is focusing his graduate studies on sustainability issues in the transportation sector. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Noah spent four years in Boston, MA working in economic consulting. Noah received his B.A. in Math and Economics from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he was a member of the varsity baseball team. Maybe all that hard training and teamwork makes him better able to  focus on and work toward the complex goal of green aviation?

Left to Right: Co-hosts Heena Singh and Ben Sonnega, and Guest Noah Feingold.

Global aviation accounts for approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions (some estimates find that the impact on global warming is closer to 5 percent due to water vapor and nitrogen emissions). Strong growth in the aviation industry and decarbonization in other industries could raise the 2 percent to 5-10 percent of global CO2 emissions in the coming decades. Nevertheless, aviation groups have set a goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050 to 50 percent of 2005 levels. The development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) is critical to reaching this goal.

This past summer, Noah interned at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)–you remember that Colorado-based non-profit think-and-do-tank that focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources? We talked about it in Part One of this series, our very first show this fall season, with Eric Krostich.  Noah worked in their New York location on the sustainable aviation practice area that emerged from RMI’s partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room.  The partnership has introduced an airport-centric model to aggregate SAF demand to in turn spur additional supply of SAF production. Noah’s research focused on the regulatory landscape around biofuels and the positive externalities associated with SAF, too often unvalued but potentially assets to an airport  guaranteeing demand of SAF.

From Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the moon” to Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle,” and even a call in from a cranky coal industry professional, this exciting episode of It’s Hot In Here  is well worth tuning in for before your weekend gets all the way turned up.

Nagasaki Atomic History and Present

Nagasaki Atomic History and Present

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The day that the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the people of Nagasaki is one that will not be forgotten in history, but do we truly understand all of the repercussions still?

Host Ben Sonnega (Left) and guest Alex Sklyar (Right)

During this week’s show on It’s Hot In Here host Ben Sonnega was joined by Aleksandr Sklyar, a University of Michigan PhD candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology. Alex told us about the website Nagasaki Atomic History and the Present (NAHP) which he created with Georgia Butcher and Benjamin Kelsey last summer at Colgate University. You can access NAHP and see for yourself!

The site features interviews with atomic bomb survivors conducted by Alex during his time spent in Japan, as well as statements from experts in the field on nuclear weapons technology. The site also features a NUKEMAP simulator that allows the user to plug in their hometown and see data like the number of casualties and the range of the blast if a similar bomb were to be dropped in the US.

In this episode Ben and Alex discuss everything from nuclear weapons education approaches, to cultural differences in how the history is written, to nuclear war scenarios played out in Japanese anime, taking a question or two from callers along the way.  Stream or download; enjoy and reflect on the ways we as students can also become teachers, gathering and conveying information in innovative ways.

Realize Initiative: RMI Research Conversation Part One


When asked what was the best part of his summer internship Eric Krostich says “Basalt.” No, this is not a throwback to your high school geology class, but the place where Eric made his home for the summer in Colorado.


Eric Krostich (pictured far left) is a second-year MBA/MS graduate student at the Erb Institute, a dual-degree program between the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. Eric is focusing his graduate studies on energy and sustainability issues. Before coming to Ann Arbor, Eric spent four years in New York, NY working as a tax and audit CPA.  Eric received his B.A. in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin.

Desirability, convenience, and cost are the three greatest barriers to adoption of deep energy retrofits. To date, selling energy efficiency at scale has not been achieved, so only a minority of homes in the US have had a deep energy or zero energy retrofit. A program in the Netherlands known as Energiesprong has sought to overcome these barriers by facilitating and treating retrofits as a product to be delivered by industry, rather than individualized projects. The project has succeeded, retrofitting thousands of social housing units.

This past summer, Eric interned at a company called Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a Colorado-based non-profit think-and-do-tank that focuses on the efficient and restorative use of resources.  In coordination with Energiesprong, the Rocky Mountain Institute has started an initiative called REALIZE that plans to attempt this approach in the US. With over 137 million homes, the US is a significant market opportunity. REALIZE hopes to facilitate the delivery of comfortable, desirable, affordable, and reliable net zero energy retrofits by coordinating the value chain, removing barriers, recognizing perceived risks, and mitigating confusion and protectiveness.

Smooth, confident, and driven, it’s safe to say that Eric will be creating positive change for the environment and homeowners as we move towards a new sustainable energy future.

Today we were also joined by new host Ben Sonnega, Program in The Environment undergrad, recently of MLCV, and also former national champion men’s rower at U of M.

(Pictured in center)