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Transport - May 7

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Binge-flying culture is just beginning.
The only way to stop it is a severe tax

Max Hastings, Guardian
Almost all of us are hypocrites on climate change. We will not quit our aviation habit until it really hurts our pockets
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Mark Ellingham has made a sizeable fortune from the creation of the Rough Guides to almost everywhere. He is shortlisted for the Royal Society's prize for science writing, for his book The Rough Guide to Climate Change.

Now, in a conversion that would command the admiration of St Paul, he declares that "binge flying" constitutes a huge threat to the global environment. "If the travel industry rosily goes ahead as it is doing, ignoring the effect that carbon emissions from flying are having on climate change, we are putting ourselves in a very similar position to the tobacco industry."

He readily admits the irony that he, of all people, should articulate such a warning. He appeals for moderation, for setting some limits on our insatiable appetite for travel: "We now live in a society where, if people have nothing to do on a Saturday night, they go to Budapest for 48 hours. We fly anywhere at the slightest opportunity, 10 times and upwards a year. This needs to be addressed with the greatest urgency."
(7 May 2007)


Qantas sale: flying blind into turbulent times

Ian Dunlop, Centre for Policy Develpoment.
Leaving aside water and David Hicks, the two issues dominating the media over the last month have been climate change and the bid for Qantas by private equity group Airline Partners Australia (APA).

The two are inextricably linked, but you would never know from the copious column inches of comment and analysis being served up daily.

APA assures us they have a long term view, referring to continued growth and investment if the bid succeeds. Analysts are agog at the whiz-bang financial engineering. 'Unlocking value' is apparently the order of the day (not least those rewards which, for some unfathomable reason, will accrue to a small cadre of top Qantas executives). But not a word on the really big questions – the impact of climate change on the airline business generally, and on Qantas specifically, and of even more immediate concern, the peaking of global oil supply.

Consider this: Climate change is now seriously on the political agenda, as it should be for we have wasted valuable years before addressing it, and have made the solution far harder and more costly.

...Cheap air travel has transformed Europe, but one has to question its sustainability in the world we now face. Transport fuels will be at a premium and for the foreseeable future aircraft have no alternative but to use the fossil fuel kerosene. Pressure for emission reductions will be intense. Despite increased fuel efficiency and larger aircraft, it may be that cheap air travel becomes a thing of the past. But this, along with continued business traffic growth, appears to be the cornerstone of APA plans for Qantas and Jetstar, particularly in Asia as wealth increases.
(2 May 2007)
More from the Sydney Morning Herald: Big blip ahead on the market radar.

Contributor ygrene writes:
Further insights into the possible consequences for Commercial Aviation are available at
www.airliners.net/articles/read.main?id=81


A Two-Wheeled Option (With a Battery) for Commuters

Barry Rehfeld, NY Times
JEFF BAUM has a breathtaking daily commute. He travels 10 miles each way from his home in Frisco, Colo., to his office in Breckenridge - up and down winding roads that eventually climb to 9,800 feet in the Rockies - to his job as the executive director of the Breckenridge Music Festival.

For most of his 10 years with the festival, he had driven a standard gasoline-powered sport utility vehicle. Last September, though, he started leaving it at home for something cheaper, quieter and cleaner: an electric bicycle.

It takes him a little longer to get to work, but the bike is more dependable, more nimble, more invigorating and just more fun than the S.U.V., he said.

“I personally feel very good about it,” said Mr. Baum, 53, who spent $7,000 for an Optibike. “I get the fresh air and, in fact, by switching to the bike, here is one of the few ways in which I as an individual can have a good impact on our environment.”

Electric bikes have some features in common with traditional bikes. They have working pedals, and most have gears. They look similar to traditional bikes, and riders of both types follow the same rules of the road.

But the differences begin when a rider starts an electric bike’s battery, often with a key. On some models, riders can twist or thumb the throttle on the handlebar and move forward without pedaling. On others, they can pedal lightly and accelerate quickly.
(6 May 2007)
$7,000 for an electric bike! I'd be willing to do a lot of pedalling for $7,000. The article goes on to mention less expensive alternatives. -BA


Taking Our Time Off

Rana Foroohar and William Underhill, Newsweek International
The hectic 10-city, 10-day package tour is a thing of the past. We say good riddance.
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Andrew Sims has a no-fly rule. As an international development expert and policy director for London's New Economics Foundation, he spends his days thinking globally. But when he travels on holiday, it's always closer to home; several years ago he decided never again to take a vacation by air. "The decision was partly driven by a concern for the environment," says Sims, "but it's also driven by a desire not to overlook what's on your doorstep, and to travel in a more leisurely way."

Now, instead of hopping a cheap flight to Spain or the Côte d'Azur, Sims and his family board a sleeper train from London to the west coast of Scotland. They spend unstructured days amid the lochs and islands, hiking, cooking or just dreaming. The journey itself- made partly on a single track, which curves so that the back of the train is visible from the front-is a key part of the trip. No matter that it takes three times longer than flying; for Sims and his family, enjoying breakfast in bed while chugging past some of the world's most beautiful scenery is the end, not the means to get there.
(14-21 May 2007)
One of the more thoughtful pieces in a Newsweek special on luxury travel. The other articles seem to be ignorant or in denial about the prospects of long-distance recreation in an age of peak oil and climate change. For example, travel services executive Jeff Clarke said said in an interview

I think travel is extraordinarily good for the world. It leads to tolerance and understanding. But your question is about the implications of carbon, which is a byproduct of travel. I think you have to balance the two. I think [the travel industry] has a responsibility to talk about the aggregate amounts [of carbon] and to participate in the debate. And to facilitate for consumers the ability to offset this if they choose through organizations like carbontrust.org, a nonprofit associated with Orbitz. Many businesses are funding carbon offset when they travel...

-BA


Your Car + Your Commute = A Visit to Your Doctor

Eric M. Weiss, Washington Post
Worried About the Toll Your Workday Drive Is Taking on Your Car? The Wear on Your Body Might Be Even Worse.
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...Besides being a daily grind that takes time away from family, a long commute can be harmful to your health. Researchers have found that hours spent behind the wheel raise blood pressure and cause workers to get sick and stay home more often. Commuters have lower thresholds for frustration at work, suffer more headaches and chest pains, and more often display negative moods at home in the evenings.

It's not just the drivers who suffer. Carpool passengers have to deal with what they call "Mustang neck" or "Beetle neck" -- the contortions they must make to wedge themselves into the back seats of certain cars.

Such ailments have long plagued drivers in California and other parts of the country where grueling commutes have been a way of life for decades. But Washington commuters, who are increasingly making the long hauls that cause the most problems, are catching up fast, researchers said. The region's drivers have the nation's second-longest commutes, behind New York, according to Census Bureau figures, and in outer suburbs, drives are as much as an hour each way on a good day -- and there aren't many good days.

As a consequence, more drivers will probably suffer the health effects of a commuter lifestyle, researchers and doctors said. "You tell someone they need to exercise or go to physical therapy, but how can they? They leave at 5 a.m. and get home at 7 or 8 p.m. at night," said Robert G. Squillante, an orthopedic surgeon in Fredericksburg who has treated patients for back pain and other commuting-related issues.

He said constant road vibrations and sitting in the same position for a long time is bad for the neck and spine and puts special pressure on the bottom disc in the lower back, the one most likely to deteriorate over the years.

There are other long-term concerns. Raymond W. Novaco, a professor at the University of California at Irvine's Institute of Transportation Studies who has researched commuting for three decades, found a correlation between traffic congestion and negative health effects such as higher blood pressure and stress.

Novaco's research team measures the blood pressure and heart rate of commuters shortly after they arrive at work and again two hours later. Commuters also fill out detailed questionnaires on their home and work lives. "The longer the commute, the more illness" and more illness-related work absences occur, he said.

"If you're driving an hour-and-a-half each way twice a day for 30 years, the consequences don't catch up with you at 32, they catch up in your 50s ," said Jerry L. Deffenbacher, a professor of psychology at Colorado State University, who uses a computerized driving simulator to test the connection between traffic congestion and anger. "Like smoking, it wouldn't be immediately obvious."
(9 April 2007)
Recommended by Clark Williams-Derry, who also points to a long article in the New Yorker: The Soul of the Commuter.

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