Memorandum from Mr K Lister (FOA 01)
This document addresses the specific questions
raised regarding aviation expansion. It demonstrates the case
for continued expansion is unfounded and is a folly in the light
of the planetary emergencies facing us all.
The responses argue that aviation expansion:
Can only be curtailed by reducing capacity
1. What is the value of aviation to the UK
economy? What are the roles of the London and regional airports?
What competition do they face from abroad?
1.1 This question presupposes value to the
UK economy is something that can be quantified in terms of tax
receipts and contribution to overall GDP. However, this is a narrow
and imprecise definition and when used as the sole arbitrator
then bad decisions will be made which will be expensive in the
1.2 A more relevant approach would be to segment
the economy into sustainable and unsustainable segments. The aviation
industry has a large value to the unsustainable economy, and a
negative value to the sustainable economy. The unsustainable sector
of the economy is based entirely on cheap energy from easily available
fossil fuels. It assumes that these fossil fuels are infinitely
available or can easily be substituted with alternatives. These
are both naive and false assumptions.
1.3 Firstly, fossil fuels by definition
are not infinitely available. It is now widely accepted that peak
oil will occur soon. The only debate now is of time. Some commentators
have suggested that we have already passed peak oil and others
are suggesting that it is soon to come in the near future. Inasmuch
as the oil companies and International Energy Agency are now recognising
peak oil, then it is totally foolhardy to pretend that it will
not exist, which is the pretence that is needed to justify the
aviation industry. The recent IEA report, Resources to Reserves,
states "most countries outside of OPEC have passed their
peaks in conventional oil production, or will do so shortly."
1.4 Secondly, no viable energy alternative
to fossil fuels has been discovered, despite all the best efforts.
This lack of a viable alternative is particularly acute in the
aviation industry. The only two possible alternatives are hydrogen
and biofuels. Hydrogen fuel is not an option. Its energy density
is too low to make it a practical aviation fuel, and it does not
resolve the issue of the energy supply. Biofuel is not an option
due to the enormous landmass that is needed and the energy intensive
agriculture required. Irreparable damage is already being done
by the biofuel industry to the planet's eco-system and claims
from biofuel supporters that it is carbon neutral are totally
irrelevant when the reality is that we arc essentially burning
out planets lungs.
In essence, the pursuit of biofuel is a scorched earth policy
on a continental scale as the planet's critical biodiversity is
burnt and cleared in support of the wants of the planet's elite
1.5 Thus investments in airports and the
aviation industry, which represents the most carbon intensive
form of travel, are the ultimate statements of economic and environmental
1.6 It does not matter if public or private
bodies make these investments. Either approach diverts scarce
resources and manpower to projects that are non-viable in the
1.7 Public and private financing are simply
different financial engineering approaches and do not offer a
solution to the underlying problem that we face; that is growth
in real wealth is restrained by increasing scarcity of natural
resources, both at the source end (oil depletion), and the sink
end (absorptive capacity of the atmosphere for CO2).
1.8 As we approach these limits of growth
then the "Marginal costs of growth will exceed marginal
benefits, so that real physical growth makes us poorer, not richer".
This is the fundamental cause of the current
credit crisis. As the limit of growth is reached, the fractional
banking reserve system that underpins all economies by circulating
loans and debt to enable printing of money will collapse. Loans
that the banking system offers are serviced in an economy when
limits have not yet been achieved and energy and raw materials
are continuously supplied. However as soon as growth limits are
reached, the ability to repay loans collapses and the fractional
reserve systems goes into a dangerous reverse causing a drying
up of liquidity. The associated economic transition to a new equilibrium
state and paradigm will be non-linear and permanent. The first
stages of this are now being played out. Once true accounting
for CO2 emissions is introduced, the effect of this new limit
on the economy will increase the severity of the transition, leading
to further financial turmoil.
1.9 In these circumstances, no amount of
demand stimulus will be effective. The fact is that demand for
staples is increasing due to worldwide population growth and falling
supply. Against this background, government support for new airports
and increased aviation capacity falls into the category of false
stimulus. It is delusionary to believe that it will provide a
stable long-term economic growth platform. On the contrary, it
will increase our dependence on resources that are becoming exhausted,
just at the time when we need to be carefully using what resources
we still have to enable as smooth a transition as possible to
a sustainable economy.
1.10 Thus finally in conclusion, not only
does airport expansion not contribute to the sustainable economy,
it actually robs it of resource, leadership and public support,
hence its negative contribution to the sustainable economy.
2. Is the current aviation infrastructure
adequate for the needs of UK business and individuals and how
should it be developed? What are the implications of future passenger
trends and possible mergers in the airline industry?
2.1 The existing aviation infrastructure
is unquestioningly adequate for the needs of UK business
and individuals. However, it will not be adequate for the wants
of UK businesses and individuals, no matter how much expansion
2.2 At present, leisure flights take up the biggest
proportion of seats. Many of these flights are for frivolous activities
such as weekend breaks, multiple trips to holiday homes, stag
weekends and shopping trips. Given the serious problem that we
face now that runaway climate change has started,
these non-essential and discretionary trips should be dispensed
with and passengers should be encouraged not to take these types
of flights. The capacity released from this will allow the needs
to be easily catered for.
2.3 Trying to ensure that the wants are
satisfied ties us into economic dependence on unsustainable industries
such as International Tourism. The current economic crisis is
showing this to be the most fickle of all industries. Flyingmatters,
which represents the interests of the aviation industry, recognises
this fact on their web site, where they say, "International
tourism is a price-sensitive industry and tourists have a choicethey
can choose other, cheaper destinations."
Cheaper destinations during times of increasing economic hardship
are essentially going to mean staying at home; that will be both
UK and foreign tourists and the currently falling passenger numbers
in UK airports are evidence of this future inevitability.
3. To what extent can rail provide an alternative
to short-haul flights?
3.1 To put this question in context, it
is assumed that rail in this case means high speed rail, as this
is usually presented as being the alternative to short-haul flights.
3.2 Though rail will be able to provide some
alternative to short haul flights, its success will be limited
by a number of issues.
3.3 The existing rail network is virtually
at full capacity, both in terms of train paths and seat capacity
at peak time.
3.4 Most airports in this country are not
connected to the Intercity network, with the exception of Birmingham
3.5 The aviation infrastructure has been
focused in this country on a hub and spoke approach. The introduction
of the A380 will serve to entrench this and increase demand for
short haul connecting flights. Replacement of these short haul
services on a like for like basis that would provide equivalent
journey time solutions will require high speed rail connections
directly from the hub airports (Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham)
to virtually the rest of the country and much of Northern Europe.
3.6 Construction of high-speed links on
this scale would be prohibitively expensive in the current economic
environment. As an order of magnitude, the upgrade of the West
Coast Main Line cost approximately £8billion and the scope
of work was to track upgrades and resignalling with existing technology.
In addition, the rail network suffers from various bottlenecks
and resolution of these is hugely expensive. Reading station is
a typical bottleneck and current estimates for remodelling and
capacity enhancement are in the order of £800 million.
3.7 If new high-speed lines are introduced,
the costs will be significantly higher than recent line upgrades.
This will be in terms of financial and political costs as large-scale
compulsory purchases will be necessary to build the required rail
infrastructure near existing airports and to build the high speed
connecting lines. The political costs would be accentuated in
a fragile economy were people may be less inclined to move and
be more alienated from authority. To ensure a financial payback,
high utilisation of the service needs to be assured, which means
that it must be encouraged to operate at or as near to full capacity
as much as possible.
3.8 To operate a high speed network at or
near full capacity will require enormous amounts of energy. Trains
of the French TGV class or Japanese bullet trains require in the
order of 6 to 13 MW of power each. The exact power depends on
the number of carriages per train. Based on the fact that there
are 31 Pendolinos on the West Coast, then assuming that the network
was increased to compete with short haul planes, then at least
50 trains would be expected to operate across the country at any
one time. This equates to approximately 500 MW of capacity, which
is equivalent to a medium sized coal fired power station or 600
2MW offshore wind turbines operating with a highly optimistic
and continuous 40% capacity factor. As the service needs to operate
at full capacity, then it vital that the power supply must be
highly reliable as any failure will cause wide spread disruption
and could have repercussions that would take days to resolve.
3.9 Given the current concerns for power
outages across the UK grid due to lack of generating capacity,
a new high-speed electrified railway is unlikely to be reliable.
This situation is likely to become more severe as the power generating
solutions take account of the requirement in the climate change
bill for an 80% cut in greenhouse gases. If a reliable service
cannot be guaranteed, then the economic viability of rail replacement
3.10 The alternative approach is to dispense
with the idea of trains competing with planes, by banning short
haul flights. The rail service will then avoid the costly and
energy intensive competition inherent with providing a high-speed
network. Instead it can provide the intercity connectivity that
is needed for a large population with a slower speed network,
but at the expense of journey time. This would also make the concept
of hub and spoke aviation operations more difficult, and thus
stem the demand for fuel intensive hub-to-hub connections.
3.11 The energy required by a train is approximately
proportional to the square of the speed; so halving the line speed
means that only a quarter of the energy is needed. Therefore a
lower speed network requires very much less energy leading to
a more reliable network, especially in an energy constrained future.
Also reliability would be further enhanced as track maintenance
requirements are less onerous and the rail would need less routine
3.12 Furthermore, a slower speed rail network
actually allows for more passengers to be carried. This is because
the braking distance is proportional to the kinetic energy of
the train, which in turn is proportional to the square of the
speed. So, effectively doubling the line speed, quadruples the
braking distance. It is the worst-case braking distance that determines
the separation between trains, and hence line capacity.
3.13 Fundamentally, a low speed, high volume
network allows travel options for all. By contrast, a high speed,
low volume network caters to the elite minority but requires subsidy
by all. However, a low speed line cannot compete on a like for
like basis against short haul aviation.
4. What costs does aviation impose on society
and the environment? What are the implications of climate change
policyin particular the Climate Change Act 2008for
the aviation industry and infrastructure?
4.1 Aviation has now been incorporated into
the climate change bill and this commits the UK to a legally binding
80% cut in CO2 emissions.
4.2 However, the evidence now facing us is that
runaway climate change has now started and cuts of 80% will still
be too small to make the difference that is needed.
4.3 There has been no public debate yet
on how our society will achieve an 80% cut or how we will determine
when the target has been reached. As such, we do not know how
this cut will be made whilst balancing the current demands for
4.4 Despite the need for cuts in CO2 emissions
and the international efforts such as the Kyoto agreement, CO2
is continuing to rise and more seriously, the rate of increase
Therefore achieving the necessary cuts, at a time of increasing
population growth at home and abroad is going to be a challenge
unlike our civilisation has ever faced before.
4.5 Even in the hypothetical situation that
the aviation industry was somehow immune from making CO2 cuts
and was magically able to carbon trade its way out of the problems,
it is likely that it would face an enormous public backlash as
they continue operating and profiteering when everyone else is
forced to make drastic cuts in emissions.
4.6 This will lead to social unrest as the
better of in society continue to buy the carbon entitlements that
are on offer and the less well off are forced to suffer in hunger
and cold as they are priced out of the carbon market.
4.7 The impact of the limits on the supply
side (due to oil and gas shortages) has already has an enormous
effect on the world's economy. Introduction of another more onerous
limit associated with carbon emissions will have a far bigger
impact and lead to the bankruptcy of most carbon intensive business
operations, such as aviation.
4.8 There is no way around this situation.
The aviation industry are already trying various lies, such as
carbon neutrality from biofuels, carbon trading, and claims that
planes such as the A380 and Boeing 787 are environmentally friendly.
These lies are contemptible. They fly in the face of all scientific
and economic evidence. The power brokers pursing them are taking
the position that the rights of future generations are expendable
and unimportant, and must be sacrificed for the better good of
today's businesses and consumers. This is analogous to the Nazi
party position that Russians and Jews were expendable for the
better good of the Germans.
5. What is the impact of taxation on the aviation
sector nationally and regionally? Are passengers adequately protected
from the collapse of airlines?
5.1 Clearly, increased taxation will help
to stem demand and will be presented to the public as such, However,
the government has shown in the past that it will not maintain
high taxes as a tool to stem demand in the face protest.
5.2 This pattern has been seen in petrol taxes
and aircraft passenger duty.
5.3 It is impossible to envisage a position
where taxation provides the demand reduction necessary to comply
with the 80% CO2 cut that the climate change bill demands.
5.4 It has so far always been the policy
of the Department of Transport to cater for transport demand.
In a letter
I sent to the Ruth Kelly asking the question "Your statements
so far on travel policies have all been concerned with providing
enough supply to met demand. Can you confirm what you are doing
to reduce demand?" received the eventual reply
"It is not Government policy to reduce demand."
5.5 Political expediency will always intervene
to ensure that taxes never rise to a point that will actually
stem demand. Thus none is the answer to the question posed.
6. What is the impact on the aviation sector
of changes in the security environment?
6.1 Al-qaeda type atrocities remain a current
threat to the aviation industry and society in general. However,
the terrible events such as 9/11 and the attempts since then to
blow up planes in the mid Atlantic did not have a long term impact
on passenger numbers and most regular users prefer to take the
attitude that it will not happen to them and they will continue
flying. Something far worse would be needed before people decide
to give up flying en masse.
6.2 However, the recent invasion by Plane Stupid
at Stanstead will become a more frequent experience for passengers.
As the wider population realise that climate change is something
that will affect them directly, and will not be confined to distant
parts of the world, then the aviation industry must expect that
support and sympathy for these types of events will increase.
This will combine with more people being attracted to these events
as they become more disillusioned with normal democratic means,
especially if reviews like this end up supporting the aviation
industry's continued growth in the face of the overwhelming evidence
1 http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/oil_gas.pdf Back
Biofuel assessment for Tesco. Back
The UN Human Development report has also likened our ambivalence
to climate change to the crimes of the Nazi Era-"During the
20th Century failures of political leadership led to two world
wars. Millions of people paid a high price for what were avoidable
catastrophes. Dangerous climate change is the avoidable catastrophe
of the 21st Century and beyond." Back
Professor Daly, Senior Economist at the World Bank and currently
Ecological Economist at University of Maryland. Back
Latest predictions are for the arctic ice to melt by 2011-2015.
When this happens climate change will enter a new and much more
serious phase. Back
page 7, figure 3. Back
The reference to the UN Human Development report has already been
made. Also Primo Levi who survived Auschwitz, wrote in the Drowned
and the Saved, shortly before his suicide, that "Power is
like a drug: the need for either is unknown to anyone who has
not tried them, but after the initiation, which can be fortuitous,
the dependency and the need for ever larger doses is born; also
born is the denial of reality and the return to childish dreams
of omnipotence." He went on to say, "There are those
who faced by the crime of others or their own, turn their backs
so as not to see it and not feel touched by it: deluding themselves
that not seeing was a way of not knowing, and that not knowing
relieved them of their share of complicity." These powerful
statements that uniquely capture the essence of the Nazi era,
also capture the essence of those organisations that seek to ignore
and dismiss climate change to preserve their ability to profiteer. Back