Air: Climate change
Mayor of London, Boris Johson:
Well, folks, it’s tea-time on Sunday and for anyone involved in keeping people moving it has been a hell of a weekend. Thousands have had their journeys wrecked, tens of thousands have been delayed getting away for Christmas; and for those Londoners who feel aggrieved by the performance of any part of our transport services, I can only say that we are doing our level best.
Almost the entire Tube system was running yesterday and we would have done even better if it had not been for a suicide on the Northern Line, and the temporary stoppage that these tragedies entail. Of London’s 700 bus services, only 50 were on diversion, mainly in the hillier areas. On Saturday, we managed to keep the West End plentifully supplied with customers, and retailers reported excellent takings on what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
We have kept the Transport for London road network open throughout all this. We have about 90,000 tons of grit in stock, and the gritters were out all night to deal with this morning’s rush. And yet we have to face the reality of the position across the country.
It is no use my saying that London Underground and bus networks are performing relatively well – touch wood – when Heathrow, our major international airport, is still effectively closed two days after the last heavy snowfall; when substantial parts of our national rail network are still struggling; when there are abandoned cars to be seen on hard shoulders all over the country; and when yet more snow is expected today, especially in the north.
Boris blames, in particular, the Met Office. Everybody else believed them when they said it would be a warm winter.
More about the weather forecasting angle of this by me at Samizdata.
The air passenger duty is due to increase. It’s a rule that taxes like this always increase ("passengers now being asked to pay up to ten times more tax since APD’s introduction"), and always get more complicated:
The new APD places foreign destinations in bands, depending on how far they are away from the UK, increasing the amount of air tax paid as the distance increases.
That smells like a recipe for politicians to engineer their favoured outcomes.
However, the Caribbean is complaining that it has been unfairly hit after it was put in band C despite being only eight hours from the UK. Los Angeles in the USA is in the cheaper band B even though it is 12 hours away.
Malice, incompetence, or trade winds?
The current government wants to double the revenue it earns from aviation tax in the next four years from £28.9bn to more than £56bn. Of course, extra costs to airlines eventually find their way to customers too.
Back to the 70s we go: cheap air travel is doomed. When will the Laffer curve kick in?
Reading through the search results for “air passenger duty” on BBC News gives some sense of the inevitability of it all: Air passenger duty was invented in 1994, and in 2003 the greens were calling for it to be increased. In the 2004 budget it was frozen. There was constant clamouring to increase it, which finally happened in February 2007. Just one year later, MPs were calling for it to increase again. The current increases were planned by Alastair Darling shortly afterwards. The first of these happened this time last year.
Update: Tim Worstall says that airlines who complain that this tax is bad because it will dissuade people from flying are forgetting that this is the point of the tax. So I suppose airlines have to say something like, “dissuading people from flying is bad because the planet does not need saving”. For some reason large companies are reluctant to say such things.
Personally I am a climate change agnostic. I don’t know if it is happening or not. If it is, I don’t know what is causing it and I don’t know if it is worth doing anything about it.
However, lots of people have been baptised into the anthropogenic warming religion and they seem to be the majority.
OK, well that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, and lots of people think that they can use climate change to push a socialist agenda, hence the proliferation of high-speed railways and bus lanes, but that is no reason why we libertarians can’t play the same game. So instead of getting all huffy and puffy about it wouldn’t the best thing be to be use this flavour of the month to push a free-market agenda?
Take loss-making out-of-the-way railways. As I have. These could go tomorrow. For the sake of the planet of course.
And what about speed bumps? They may save the lives of small children but they definitely cause cars to slow down and accelerate, causing more pollution and killing the planet. What’s more important little children or the survival of life on earth? Come on now, it’s an easy one.
Or, what about environmentally-friendly 60-ton mega-lorries?
And then there’s crumple zones on trains. Sure, they make it slightly less likely that’ll you’ll die in an accident but they weigh a lot and require more energy etc, etc… but it is you versus the planet and you wouldn’t want anything untoward happening to the planet now would you?
I wonder if there’s even an argument to be made in the world of Trans-Atlantic air travel. As I understand it there’s some amazingly convoluted system which restricts the number of slots and hence promotes inefficient gas-guzzling airlines. I reckon they could go too. The regulations I mean.
Anyway, these are just a few suggestions. I’m sure readers can come up with a few of their own.
Climate change: enjoy it while it lasts1.
1. Which may not be that long as Brian points out.