Government tells government to stop building runways

Stop sign 2

The Sustainable Development Commission, the government’s green watchdog, has decided that destroying the planet may be harmful to the environment. God alone knows how this bunch of dangerous subversives managed to get through the quango filter. Even more amazingly, despite the SDC being a creation of the Blair government, not a single one of its members used to be the chief executive of British Airways.

They've told the government to stop it's mad schemes for airport expansion, and to rethink the whole dammed aviation thingie. Well really - this total lack of joined-up-government is likely to be a severe embarrassment to Gordon Brown, although it is right at the back of the queue. The PM has allegedly penciled in a deep blush and guttural stutter from now through to late November, 2009.

Rising oil pushes carriers into the red

Rusty plane

Despite my last post on peak oil (and why we shouldn't rely on it) rising oil prices do impact transport and aviation growth. With oil currently hovering around the $128 / barrel mark, and widely predicted to hit $150 or even $200 / barrel by the end of the year, airlines are having to up their prices to avoid bankruptcy.

With no tax on aviation fuel the industry has no buffer zone: every dollar hike is another dollar that needs to be squeezed out of ever tighter margins. This weekend Richard Branson joined the doom-and-gloomers, predicting $200 / barrel oil in the very near future. Meanwhile BA is planning to ground planes because of rising fuel costs. The American market is widely tipped to implode if prices keep rising, and the British outlook is not so rosy either.

Meanwhile the government wants to expand airports all over the place, because demand for flights will keep going up - even if there's no airlines left to supply them. They claim that demand is inelastic - i.e. that it will remain constant no matter how hard it is stretched by rising prices. A Parliamentary Question last week showed the cause of their market-defying confidence: the government's modellers are working on the assumption that by 2010, oil will have rised to... $65 dollars a barrel. By 2020, the government is assuming that oil will have reached the staggering price of $75 / barrel. No wonder they think people will keep flying regardless...

Plane Stupid Scotland: Holyrood is undermining democracy

PS Scotland Holyrood 2

Double whammy! With two consultations ending this April, Scottish Minister John Swinney is pulling off a fabulously nefarious coup. Two proposed reforms - one to planning, one to climate change - will massively increase emissions, cutting democracy out of the deal. A whole generation of Scotland's development is being removed from public debate.

The planning reforms and climate change laws look like very different beasts, but both will have the same impact - increased emissions. The National Planning Framework, alongside the Planning Scotland Act 2006, gives Government central control over planning. The Climate Change Bill takes the most important thing we need to plan for –- control of emissions -– and gifts it to the big polluters. One centralises government, the other decentralises - but both lock citizens out of politics.

Exposed: government flying

Necessary journey

During World War II, when fuel was scarce, the govenment made a point of asking people to think twice before travelling. Now that everyone has woken up to climate change, how is the government reacting? Why, by flying as much as possible, of course!

Last year government departments flew a total of 300 million miles. While some of these trips were no doubt essential - it's no surprise that the Foreign Office is number one on the list - does every department need to be abusing their air miles? Why, for instance, did the Department for Work and Pensions fly 9 million miles? Is there really that much benefit fraud in Australia?

"We are not impressed"


Not us talking, but the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, in a report published today which roasts the government's record on a host of green issues. What they are so particularly unimpressed by in the above quote is the Treasury's half-baked explanation for their refusal to even work out how much the VAT tax rebate to aviation is actually worth each year.

Since its inception in 1997, with a mandate to keep a watch on the Treasury's progress towards keeping its promises on climate change and the environment, the EAC has been an annoying voice of reason within the House of Commons. Why can't they ever say anything nice? Oh wait, no I get it. Today's report has plenty of interesting criticisms to make of the Treasury's many diverse and abject failings with regards to climate change, but the Committee seems especially underwhelmed by this government's approach to the problem posed by aviation emissions. As they've been saying for years now, "Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, its contribution to global warming is enhanced through releasing emissions at altitude, its growth is being fuelled by largely inessential journeys (especially short-haul journeys, where there are rail alternatives), and it is very lightly taxed (notably aviation fuel is untaxed internationally)."

Brown, protest and the case for action

Parliament roof 2

Gordon Brown's comment yesterday, upon hearing that five climate activists had taken to the roof of parliament to highlight collusion between BAA and the DfT over the Heathrow third runway 'consultation', could not have been more untrue.

In one sentence he highlighted just how disconnected with the concerns of the general public this government has become - not to mention how little the disenfranchisement of vast swathes of the population, especially the young, means to him. Hearing him say "decisions get made in the chamber of this house [not on the roof]" must have left those millions of Londoners with no means of objecting to a third runway, the great range of councillors and mayoral candidates whose views on the runway have been completely silenced, and the millions of British citizens deeply worried about climate change, screaming in true panto-style: "OHHH no they don't!".

Minister doesn't let the train take the strain


A Freedom of Information Act request from the Department for Transport reveals that six domestic flights were taken by DfT Ministers during the twelve months leading up to October 2007. Most of these flights leave from Glasgow International, an airport conveniently located in the constituency of one Tom Harris, Minister for Rail.

Now you or I might think that Mr. Harris would be better off by train, but who knows how a Minister's mind works? Perhaps he should spend less time jetting about on short-haul flights, and more time on the choo-choos he's meant to be in charge of...

On a lighter note, another FOI request shows that the least popular Minister at the DfT is Jim Fitzpatrick, Minister for the Environment and Aviation. He sent 150 Christmas cards this year, while his colleagues all sent 200 or more.

Teenagers are revolting

Black bloc

Who said we were the radicals? A poll in today's Guardian says that one in eight 16-19 year olds supported a ban on flying on holiday.

This might be down to their dreading another family holiday, but it's more likely to be a sign that younger people are really worried about their impact on the climate. Unlike most politicians, teenagers will still be around when the shit hits the fan, and they're unhappy that their parents' pollution is damaging their future.

The same poll revealed that 10% of young people said they'd be up for taking part in 'guerilla activities' carried out by green groups. Get involved...

BMI vs the free market, round two

Plane Crazy

Radical anti-capitalists BMI are at it again - this time threatening to axe flights between Durham Tees Valley airport and Heathrow if BAA raises the price of landing slots at the London airport.

They've got MPs in such a tizz, that 14 have signed up to an Early Day Motion, asking the DfT to mark the flight as a 'public service', keeping landing costs lower than the market rate.

Warning: avoid the top spin

Top spin

In October, Plane Stupid reported how Tom Kelly - the Blairite spin doctor who had to apologise to David Kelly's family after calling him a Walter Mitty character - had gone to join BAA as their director of corporate affairs.

The Guardian writes today that he commutes to work between Northern Ireland and Heathrow and that he denies BAA might just have taken him on for his ministerial phone book.

"The last thing I would want to be seen to do is play on the contacts I have from government."

I can't believe BAA would hire a spin doctor for his contacts. Surely the only spin they'd want from him would be on the tennis courts?