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Why does Britain want to build airports for ghost planes?

George Monbiot, Guardian
The economic case for more capacity is based on defunct data: this policy will only drag us back to the planet-burning past

Hoisting 180lbs of human flesh 30,000 feet into the air and 4,000 miles across the ocean every time you want to talk to someone: does that sound like 21st-century technology, or a 20th-century throwback?

The lobbying power of well-established industries will always be greater than that of new or emerging businesses. So one of the impacts of lobbying is to keep dragging us back into the past. There is no better example than the demand to build new airports and new runways. Sold to the public with the promise of progress and modernity, their impact is to retard technological change.

…Business travel is treated by many companies as a luxury, which is quickly cut when conditions tighten. And much of the perceived need to travel has been superseded by new technologies. Internet conferencing is cheaper, quicker and less taxing for workers.

But, at vast public and private expense, at the cost of homes and green spaces, peaceful skies and a benign climate, governments are trying to build more runways, to encourage people to stick with the old technology.

So much for business. The great majority of flights (85%) are in fact used for leisure, overwhelmingly by people in the top three social classes.
(22 July 2013)

The bike, reborn as a fashion statement

Renat Kuenzi, SwissInfo
From purist fixed-gears to elegant retro models, today’s urban streets are full of bicycles that meld aesthetics and pleasure. Just a few decades ago, two-wheeled transport was in crisis. What’s behind the renaissance?

A thin steel frame, two wheels, two pedals, a chain, a seat: fixed-gear bikes, known as “fixies”, represent the reduction of the bicycle to its simplest technical and aesthetic state.

“On a fixie, there’s not much left to leave out,“ Marius Graber, technology editor at the trade magazine Velojournal, tells, adding that this makes fixed-gear bikes durable, but it also means the rider needs to be able to handle pedalling with just one gear.

“For me, fixies are high heels for men,” he says. “High heels are uncomfortable, but many women buy them and like to wear them.”

“It’s a great victory that people today like to show off their trendy bicycles. Nothing better could happen than the bike becoming a fashion statement.”
(25 July 2013)

Moving Dirty Crudes, Another Threat Posed by Dirty Fossil Fuels

Alison Grass and John Wu, Food & Water Watch Blog
Earlier this month, fire and a series of horrific explosions swept through Lac-Mégantic, a small town in Québec just miles from the Maine border, after an unmanned 72-car train derailed. The train was transporting 27,000 gallons of crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to a refinery in New Brunswick on the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA). The death toll has climbed to more than 50 people. This is but one of the latest tragedies resulting from the rapid expansion of risky oil and gas drilling and fracking across North America.

Oil produced by the boom in North America from tar sands in Alberta and the Bakken Shale Formation under North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba requires transport. With pipelines already pumping at capacity, companies are turning to rails and ships to move their dirty products. Because most refineries in East Canada are not able to process heavy tar sand crudes, they are switching from distilling imported foreign light crudes to the cheaper Bakken light crudes.

After this ill-fated train left North Dakota, it passed through Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal.

… The lives lost in Lac-Mégantic are an unfortunate display of what happens as we push for increased dirty fossil fuel production through President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy plan. Instead, we should be weaning ourselves off fossil fuel consumption and making the policy decisions that will lead us to a sustainable, clean energy future.

Alison Grass is a researcher for the water program at Food & Water Watch. John Wu is a Food & Water Watch summer water research and policy intern and a junior at The College of Wooster.
(25 July 2013)