Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by B Metcalf, Futurologist

  Best ways of reduction in order of significance—some political non starters.


    —    Leisure travel allowance?

    —    Trading in surplus allowances would be progressive re rich and poor.

  Localize food production and marketing.

    —    farmers markets;

    —    higher proportion UK food—eat British campaign;

    —    promote home food growing for nutrition and health;

  Localize education—ie reduce parental choice.

    —    Free bus travel only to nearest available school.

    —    School buses free and parents charged for bringing children to school by car (Travel to and from schools has a major impact on traffic congestion and this suggests that it is a major element of domestic travel).

  Mathematical study of the best networking. ie what is the shortest distance between A and B going via N other places? This could help firms making deliveries to minimize usage. Could be shaded by taking into account time congestion and time for the journey and the possibility of lower CO2 output by driving on motorways at optimum speed.

  Localize services. eg bring back the logistics of paid care services into social services to reduce the total travel time to and from clients. Many care visits are only half an hour but entail half an hour of driving. Local carers would help reduce emissions. Less distances. More possibility of walking or biking to clients.

  Localize shopping.

    (a)  by stopping any further out of town developments.

    (b)  By stopping hypermarkets especially for convenience items.

    (c)  Rationalizing delivery services and delivering to lockers so that deliveries do not need to be so strictly timed.

    (d)  provide a street or OAP complex with a minibus to a supermarket once a week cutting out personal vehicle trips.

  Localize jobs and services: encourage home based working.

  Increase videoconferencing in business and local government.

  Videophones might mean some journeys became unnecessary.

  Localize health services—more GP based services

  Smaller more numerous general hospitals.

  Videophone consultations.

  Town centre clinics.

  GPs and pharmacies well dispersed across communities.


    (a)  Fuel cells may eventually reduce CO2 output (including CO2 output in their production) per mile, vis a vis mineral oils.

    (b)  bioethanol and LPG are less harmful CO2 wise. Methane powered vehicles? Anaerobic digestion gas output in cylinders would be a carbon efficient indigenous fuel. Biodiesel.

    (c)  carbon capture for propelled vehicles—could be a philosopher's stone

    (d)  microgeneration ie bicycle assisted propulsion units

    (e)  can one burn more of the fuel with fewer particulates in the exhaust?


(a)  Reduce Weight

    —    much lighter local vehicles

    —    eg polythene covered wickerwork shopping vehicles powered by pedal/small fuel cell

    —    eg rigid or elastic foamed vehicle bodywork for local trips

    —    eg H2 filled airships—with new materials—these could be less susceptible to explosion than the ill fated ones in the past. My impression is that airships use far less kg of vehicle for each kg of payload and hence would be relatively lighter.

(b)  reduce burn rate per mile

    (a)  by influencing choice of vehicle

    (b)  by improving fuel usage and CO2 production per mile


    —    eg much more heavily tax high CO2 vehicles

    (a)  by increasing purchase tax per unladen weight of vehicles

    (b)  by increasing purchase tax per consumption measured on standard test (these measures would influence engineers and vehicle buyers)

    (c)  by putting governors in private cars—for safety this should be above the max speed limit but a limit of 80mph would probably appreciably reduce consumption

(c)  Increase payload per trip and payload per unit of fuel.

  This could mean using minibuses to reduce car usage where people do similar trips or car sharing for commuting.

  It could mean wide bodies aeroplanes—such as the wing shaped aeroplane.

  It could mean airships. Propelling a floating vehicle has to be more fuel efficient than powering upthrust to keep a plane in the air. This will be at the cost of speed of journey—but gives the sort of advantage that canals once had over roads—slower but with more payload and hence economically competitive for some types of cargo.


    (a)  consider the possibility of a broad gauge canal linking the NW (which has lots of rain) with London and the SE. In the past and even today, canals are extensively used for moving water supplies as a subsidiary benefit. Possibility of good payload per trip. Container barges? Ro-ro barges?

  Possibility of barges made of foamed materials being light and fuel efficient per unit of payload. Another advantage is that the slower speed will not encourage more commuting.

  Much of the perceived demand for widening the M6 or putting an expressway alongside seems to derive from dreams of economic expansion in the NW.

A new canal might divert some of the resulting freight. Huge potential savings of several billion pounds could be diverted to the new project.

  Canal freight was very fuel efficient. 1horsepower was sufficient to take a horse from Birmingham to London.

  (Have no idea if this idea is practicable—but worth a thought.)

    (b)  Put the postal service back on the railways. (The reason given for the change was the unreliability and cost of rail freight—but looking at the full costs including roadbuilding to reduce congestion, and at the extreme slowness and unreliability of the post—it has to be cost effective to subsidize the cost of post going by rail rather than road where possible. At certain times of day the motorways are awash with Royal Mail vehicles.

    (c)  sea-based freight from the NE to the SE of England to relieve the M1?

    (d)  Overhead monorail. This could be fuel efficient if supported on an air cushion or magnetic repulsion. ie like an airship or barge, this could be a matter of propelling a floating vehicle and hence be very fuel efficient. Could be an alternative to metro where there are redundant routes which usefully link other places. There might be stretches of motorway where a good capsule service would divert people from the roads with fuel and CO2 efficiency gains.

    (e)  ensuring that services are sufficiently local to walk. Eg a post box within 400 yards of every home. A post office within 1 mile of every home. (ie half a mile, bearing in mind one needs to come back.) etc

    (f)  free bicycle maintenance.

        Dedicated bicycle routes in new neighbourhoods.

    (g)  Re-examining "secured by design" principles which discourage walking and cycling by creating enclaves. Travel distances to places outside an estate are much greater and entail travel on busy roads linking enclaves.

        One might be able to achieve some of the same outcome by passive surveillance of walking and cycling routes from windows. This deters offenders and means that someone with a camera phone could capture pictures of them.

    (h)  Ensuring passive surveillance by living people of footpaths and bicycle tracks in towns where possible.

February 2006

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