Would you like a tree to go with that airline ticket?
Tapping into the growing angst over global warming, Delta Air Lines is teaming with an environmental organization to offer customers the option of paying a little extra when they book a plane ticket to fund a tree-planting.
The idea is that the tree offsets the carbon dioxide produced during the flight.
Delta says it's the first "carbon offset" program offered by a U.S. airline.
The Atlanta carrier says the optional added charge --- $5.50 for a domestic round trip or $11 for an international flight --- will go to the Conservation Fund.
The organization has already planted 30,000 acres in such "carbon sequestration" projects.
The fund said it has planted 9 million trees that will capture about 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide over 100 years.
Scientists link the buildup of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases from burning coal and petroleum products --- such as jet fuel --- with warming of the global climate.
Delta Chief Operating Officer Jim Whitehurst said the airline expects to chip in about $300,000 during Earth Day this Sunday to kick off the program, which starts June 1.
By linking conservation efforts to individual economic activities, "Delta is doing what we have struggled to do for 30 years," said Conservation Fund President Larry Selzer.
Selzer said the donations equal the approximate cost of offsetting the carbon dioxide produced by an average domestic or international trip, and would typically pay for planting one or two trees.
He said the organization expects to concentrate re-forestation efforts in Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi forests damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
British Airways and Scandinavian Airlines Group both recently announced similar voluntary carbon offset fees.
Whitehurst didn't have an estimate of how much carbon dioxide Delta produces each year.
However, figures included in Delta's 2003 annual report indicated that the carrier produced about 285 tons of air pollutants that year.
It was unclear if carbon dioxide was part of that total.
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