News item. Tuesday 14th January. The government has decided to use public money to support Flybe. More disturbing than casual use of public funds to support failing business is the announcement of intention to review air passenger duty. As we argue below failure to tax aviation fuel is a distortion of the market in favour of the highest emissions forms of transport - another subsidy from an environmentally challenged future to a self-indulgent present. Air passenger duty represented a small step towards redressing the balance and encouraging transport modes with lower emissions. Flybe is a major operator of UK domestic routes where there are more rail and road alternatives.
Transport may not be the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is still a major contributor and in some respects one of the most difficult sectors to convert to low carbon alternatives. It also, in many instances, offers a lot of personal choice. So it is a worthwhile exercise to compare the environmental costs of the choices we, individually, make. The calculation can be complicated, but some very interesting ideas arise in the process of making the comparisons. My example will be the choice that a traveller to the South of France might face, assuming a 1250 mile or 2000 km return journey. These may represent very different experiences but for many people this is a real choice. The BBC recently published comparative tables, as shown below.
If electricity production can be made carbon-free then the ideal is any mode of transport that is electricity based. This simply reflects the now widely accepted view that the path to decarbonising transport rests on the decarbonisation of electricity followed by the penetration of electricity into the transport market.