I can't help but feel the high fares are a consequence of the games governments and corporations play on the people.
For instance, when oil slumped to $50 a barrel before the $150 highs in about 3 years ago, I didn't experience any significant drop in air fares ... On the average, they have risen steadily with time.
I have seen some technology to allow cars to run on liquid hydrogen. The waste from the exhaust is water.
I feel this could be a very good option in the future, if it can be made more cost-efficient than hydrocarbons, of course.
This may also affect outsourcing, as companies look at the cost of shipping parts/test sets/support personnel vs. doing the work in house or local-sourcing. I, for one, would love to not have to travel long distances by air on a regular basis!
There is of course a lot of fossil carbon left - in tar sands, coal, shale gas. But it is a lot more expensive to access and the C02 emissions per unit energy used are high. The Fischer Tropsch method allows conversion of coal into liquids which then can be refined, but this is again expensive compared to the $20 barrel of oil seen a few years ago.
Biofuels may be 10% of the mix by 2050, but not much more without cutting down a lot of forests and starving a lot of people. Algae may help on some of this but will still only make about 10% of the mix.
Video conferencing and telepresence systems can help cut a lot of travel, especially when visiting your own company or established customers.
The air travel industry will struggle at $100/barrel - only the most efficient companies will survive at that level, and we can expect the price to stay at that level as the world economy tries to bounce back - of course the oil price itself will make the road to recovery rather rough and unpredictable.
The ways around this are to diversify energy sources, to be more energy efficient, and to work smarter.
Development of planes is pretty slow, and their deployment slower. Because they are so expensive, no one wants to phase out a $30m plane unless they are forced to OR the cost of fuel will pay back swapping to a better plane. The rate of improvement has really slowed - it is around 0.5% improvement in fuel consumption per passenger mile per year in the deployed fleet. Don't bet on a plane that can be 50% more efficient than what we have at the moment ever being deployed - physics is against it.
How bright is it to spend many hours flying to have a 2 hour meeting, when you could just do it by telepresence instead and do other work instead of flying?
Given the industry we are in - perhaps we should advocate these solutions rather than hoping for miraculous new planes?