Bountiful Bristol Bulletin

pre budget airport madness by andykisaragi
December 7, 2006, 6:29 pm
Filed under: government, peak oil

by andykisaragi
So, Gordon Brown has made his pre-budget report and, rather predictably given David Cameron’s recent environmental ramblings, issues of climate change were prominently featured.
One measure will put an extra £5 on short haul air passenger duty from February, apparently in a bid to combat aircraft emissions by discouraging people from flying. At the same time, as we know very well in Bristol, airports are continually being expanded to support ever greater air traffic. So what exactly are we trying to achieve here? More flights, but with fewer people on them?
Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways, claimed recently that environmental arguments against airport expansion are nothing more than “short-sighted doom-mongering”. This barely even deserves comment, but for what it’s worth: it seems to me rather more short sighted to pour millions into an infrastructure which is entirely dependent on abundant oil.
There are obvious concerns about the increasing environmental impact of air travel, with estimates that it could account for a quarter of Britain’s CO2 emissions by 2050. Walsh’s suggestion is that rather than restricting airport expansion and putting heavier taxes on air travel, the government should make airlines pay their environmental costs through the EU carbon emissions trading scheme. I don’t understand how everyone manages to the point by such a wide margin. Because seriously,


Even by the most conservative estimates, that is well beyond peak oil. There’s no way that a quarter of our CO2 emissions will be coming from planes in 2050, because as fuel prices rise, so too will prices for air travel, until there are too few people able to fly to support the airline companies. Not only is unchecked airport expansion an environmental disaster, it’s a big fat waste of money, time and resources.
It’s great that these issues of environment and climate change are so high on the agenda these days – but it’s telling that politicians and the mainstream media almost never touch on the very real issue of peak oil. Throwing around statistics about aircraft emissions in 2050 implicitly works on the assumption that aircraft will still be flying on today’s scale in 2050, and emissions trading [subscription required, sorry!] strengthens the notion that business as usual can go on indefinitely. If we become carbon neutral, then our worries are over! But carbon neutrality does not equal sustainability. We can plant as many trees as we like; it won’t mean the planes can keep flying when there’s no fuel.


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[…] lifting of a freeze in fuel duty which had previously kept prices falling in real terms. I’ve already written here about the blatant contradiction between the ‘green’ tax on air travel and the […]

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