Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Private Jets - Lets Take Action!


Note: Since I wrote this a higher rate of passenger duty has been introduced on provate jets. However their users still pay proportionally less than other plane passengers.

Chariots Of The Gods

"They gave me the Gulfstream Four – you know the transatlantic one, with the beds and the shower."

Thus spoke Adam Lang, the crass ex-Prime Minister facing war crimes charges in Robert Harris's biting political satire Ghost.

It was an apt comment, for if I had to pick one object that typified where New Labour went wrong it would be the private jet.

Private jets carrying the Master of High Finance around the world to convince us all that Greed is Good and prosperity is round the corner and private jets taking terror suspects to torture and illegal detention.

When Blair eventually left office he really did get to fly in a $50 million Gulfstream IV, with beds and shower, so he could travel round the world with his message of hope, which included trying to tell the world to take Climate Change seriously.

Seriously.

The Alarmist Factoids

The case against private jets is quite a simple one. If we ignore spaceships, jet fighters and racing cars on the grounds they carry "crew" rather than passengers, they must be the most polluting form of travel on the planet.

A single businessman flying by in a Cessna Citation X (a medium jet - they come a lot bigger) produces 23 times as carbon dioxide as if they'd bought a ticket on a commercial flight and 10 times as much as if they'd driven all the way in a Hummer H3. Even fully loaded the Citation X uses three times as much fuel per passenger as a scheduled flight, . (High Fliers: How private jet travel is straining the system, warming the planet and costing you money. Institute of Policy Studies. 2008)

Put another way a family of four crammed in like sardines on a charter flight would need to fly to Disneyland, Florida, and back at least three times to use the same amount of fuel as a businessman on a one way transatlantic flight.

A Taxing Situation

What's more that family, on their three holidays, would have paid over £1000 in Air Passenger Duty for those flights, whilst the business exec would have paid.......nothing. His plane is currently exempt!

Crisis = Opportunity

But all is not well in private jet land. The Credit Crunch has hit them pretty hard.

Did I hear you say 'Oh dear?' No?

Sales of business jets fell off a cliff after banks went bust, falling from a high of 1315 in 2008 to 703 last year, and we may not have hit the bottom yet. 70% of jet use is commercial travel, and the bean counters are starting to reign in the corporate perks. (The Times. 7 May 2012)

Moral pleading alone may not achieve much, but if money is also talking we may get somewhere.

The Political Bit

It's even possible there may be a bit of political progress here, although don't get too optimistic.

The government announced at the end of last year that it would look at making private jet passengers pay Air Passenger Duty from April 2013. It even had a consultation.

The proposal is that they would pay at twice the normal rate. Not only does this fall short of the increased CO2 emissions from these planes, it also comes with all the current failings of the current system; you pay the same for smokey old planes as (relatively) more efficient new ones and planes flying half empty pay less than those stuffed to the gunnels.

It's a start, but as the government itself admits "The extension of APD to business jet flights is not expected to have a significant effect on overall demand, given that generally APD will account for only a small fraction of the final price of hiring a business jet."

Action Points

So what's to be done?

Well the usual, obviously, write to your MP, write to the papers, write to your mum etc etc. But rather more practically, how do you take the fight to the opposition?

Lets look at how we tackle the growth in road traffic; we opposed new roads, and targeted the users of the most unnecesary and polluting vehicles - the urban four by fours.

Opposing new runways is going well, indeed here in Manchester I think we led the way.

However when it comes to the planes themselves we do tend to treat all as equally bad. I think we should aim our fire squarely at the business jets, the Chelsea Tractors of the skies.

Plane Stupid have already had a crack, but I'm sure there is more we can do.

There are challenges. These aircraft usually operate from the fringes of big airports, away from the plebs and the operators don't have high street shops. The users tend not to brag about it much either, at least not in front of the servants.

BUT there are things that can be done.

For a start one of the perks of private jetting is that you just turn up and take off. Companies often only tell their customers to turn up ten minutes before take off. The exec in a hurry therefore doesn't really want to stop to chat with you or me. It might make them a bit cross.

If nothing else Ye Olde Banner Drop would provide a pretty picture and help shine a light on another perk of 1%.

Meanwhile over at the main terminal the family of four on the way to Florida may be interested in knowing how much more tax they're paying than Mr. Exec. Usually an airport is hostile territory for environmentalist as everyone there is either getting on or off a plane or working for the airline industry.

However if we go out there suggesting that maybe the 1% should take a bit of a hit before the rest of us give up our cheap package deals we may get somewhere. I can't imagine the airport would be too keen on us hanging around to talk to too many people, but it makes it a tad harder for them to chuck us out if their customers agree with us.

Key points:
  • This is the 1% polluting the planet and paying no tax
  • Most carbon intensive form of passenger travel
  • The Chelsea Tractors of the skies!
  • The government plans to do something but we must make them do more.

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