In making a mocking jibe in a speech last week about environmental activity in Belgium, US FAA Administrator Marion Blakey may have based her information on a hoax news story.

The Russian news agency Novosti last month published an “April Fool’s” news story, falsely claiming that officials in the Belgian province of Wallonia may use aerial surveillance to enforce a tax on carbon emissions from outdoor barbecue grills.

In later news reports, Belgian officials have repeatedly denied that such a tax exists, and that aerial surveillance is not being considered to monitor carbon emissions in Wallonia.

blakeyHowever, Blakey’s speech in Phoenix last week cited the same details as fact, using the anecdote to mock the level of concern in Europe about the aviation industry’s impact on climate change. Blakey described news reports claiming that the Belgian government may use helicopters to monitor backyard grills.

“It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a helicopter with a thermal imaging sensor that’s cracking down on backyard BBQ,” she said. “So eventually cooler heads prevailed. But keep in mind that even if the average civilian helicopter burns about 10 or 12 gallons of fuel an hour --. We’re laughing, but it’s really not funny.”

Phone calls to the FAA for comment were not immediately returned.

Jeffrey Gazzard, coordinator of the GreenSkies Alliance, notified Flight’s editors on 16 May about Blakey’s apparent reference to the hoax news story.

“Economically Europe is edging away from the USA,” Gazzard said. “Ethically and politically, especially with regard to air transport’s climate change impacts, Europe is setting the pace too. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Mrs Blakey, not threaten to park your jumbo jets on the lawns of Brussels.”