T he Voca l Yokel
“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