T he Voca l Yokel

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents -

“Trav­el­ling by Land Rover is nine times bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment than jet air­craft”

Reg­u­lar read­ers of this col­umn will know that my pet hate is politi­cians. That’s be­cause most of them aren’t fit for pur­pose. Their job is to run the show and make life bet­ter for us all, but in­stead they make most of our lives a whole lot worse while look­ing af­ter them­selves and their cronies.

Those who suf­fer badly from bad po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions in­clude mo­torists, but Land Rover own­ers are per­se­cuted more than most. We drive big, diesel-pow­ered ve­hi­cles which we’re told are bad for our planet.

But don’t ever feel guilty about driv­ing a Land Rover. There’s a far more en­vi­ron­men­tally- dam­ag­ing form of trans­port that fills our at­mos­phere with dam­ag­ing CO2, show­ers us with killer soot par­ti­cles and forms clouds that block out the sun and heat up the planet.

The vast ma­jor­ity of trips made by this mode of trans­port aren’t even vi­tal. Most of its cus­tomers are sim­ply go­ing on hol­i­day.

As you’ve prob­a­bly guessed, I’m talk­ing about air trans­port.

Yet de­spite be­ing proven to be the least ef­fi­cient, gas-guz­zling form of trans­port, the air­craft in­dus­try doesn’t get to pay duty on the vast ton­nage of fuel it con­sumes. And it even gets bil­lions of pounds in gen­er­ous gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies. Let me hit you with some fig­ures… The av­er­age short-haul flight of 300 miles gen­er­ates about 184 kilo­grams of C02 per pas­sen­ger. A car with a fuel con­sump­tion of 25-30mpg (ie, most Land Rovers) would gen­er­ate just 104 kg of CO2, re­gard­less of the num­ber of pas­sen­gers. If you were in the fam­ily Dis­cov­ery with five peo­ple on board, that would leave a car­bon foot­print of 20.8 kg of C02 per per­son, mak­ing the Land Rover nine times bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment than a jet air­craft.

On long-haul flights, it doesn’t get much bet­ter. A 3000 miles flight would gen­er­ate 1300 kg of car­bon per pas­sen­ger, com­pared to 930 kg by road. The en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print of our fam­ily of five in a Land Rover would be seven times bet­ter.

Yet our fru­gal fam­ily get to pay about 40p a litre in fuel duty, while air­lines pay noth­ing.

You may well con­sider that un­fair and won­der how that came about. Well, it dates back to 1944 when the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO) was set up and all mem­ber states agreed not to charge duty on avi­a­tion fuel.

To­day, mem­ber states could opt out if they wanted to, but I will let a well-known politi­cian ex­plain why: “No politi­cian fac­ing a po­ten­tial elec­tion would vote to end cheap air travel,” said UK Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair in 2005, speak­ing be­fore a House of Com­mons li­ai­son com­mit­tee.

Most coun­tries would not dare to act uni­lat­er­ally and im­pose fuel duty on air­lines be­cause they would be afraid of los­ing busi­ness. In fact, just 12 per cent of air­line pas­sen­gers are mak­ing busi­ness trips. The ma­jor­ity (88%) are leisure trav­ellers – off on their hols.

Aoife O’leary, from the Euro­pean cam­paign group Trans­port & En­vi­ron­ment, says: “Avi­a­tion is the only means of trans­porta­tion that doesn’t pay a penny of tax on the fuel it burns. This is an un­fair ad­van­tage that air­lines have over trains, coaches and cars, mak­ing it the fastest-grow­ing form of trans­port while also be­ing the most car­bon-in­ten­sive.” But even this does not tell the whole story. The avi­a­tion in­dus­try also re­ceives di­rect sub­si­dies. In the EU alone, the air­line in­dus­try re­ceives an av­er­age of £2.5 bil­lion a year to build air­ports and open­new air routes. In the UK, we pay for the road in­fra­struc­ture through the an­nual road tax as well as tax and duty on fuel.

The other price we have to pay is the se­cret pol­lu­tion that air­lines like to keep quiet. For ex­am­ple, the vapour trails caused by planes fly­ing at high al­ti­tude even­tu­ally form cir­rus clouds that block out the sun, in­creas­ing the planet’s green­house ef­fect.

But much more se­ri­ous are the soot par­ti­cles from the jet en­gines. A study by the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy es­ti­mated that par­tic­u­lates of ni­tro­gen ox­ide and sul­phur diox­ide emit­ted from jet air­craft kill 10,000 peo­ple a year.

These are the same par­tic­u­lates that politi­cians claim diesel en­gines pro­duce, even though mod­ern diesel en­gines are very clean in­deed (and get­ting cleaner), yet politi­cians want to ban diesels com­pletely, while happy to al­low jet air­craft to rain these soot par­ti­cles down on us at an ever-in­creas­ing rate.

The In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) ex­pects 7.2 bil­lion pas­sen­gers to travel in 2035, a near dou­bling of the 3.8 bil­lion air trav­ellers in 2016. So it is go­ing to get a lot, lot worse.

In the fu­ture, as you wait im­pa­tiently for your elec­tric car to charge up, you can look up at a sky criss-crossed by count­less jet air­craft and won­der how it came to this. EX-LRM Ed­i­tor Dave has driven Land Rovers in most cor­ners of the world, but loves the Bri­tish coun­try­side best

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