Azara Blog: MPs produce another silly report on emissions

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Date published: 2006/08/07

The BBC says:

Raising air travel taxes would only hit poorer people, said ministers as MPs accused them of failing to stop transport that fuels global warming.

Carbon dioxide emissions from aviation are set to rise five-fold, the Commons environmental audit committee says.

It says the government has a "fatalistic" approach to the problem.

But budget airline Easyjet said the MPs' calls for higher taxes would be unfair to poor holidaymakers and fail to make planes more efficient.

The MPs say transport is the only sector of the UK economy where carbon dioxide emissions have risen consistently since 1990, including a doubling in air traffic emissions.

They are pushing for tax on air travel to be charged per flight, rather than per passenger - and be extended to cover air freight.

And passengers should have to pay to "offset" the emissions from their flight by funding green projects elsewhere.

But an Easyjet spokeswoman said: "The idea to price the most price-sensitive and less affluent customers (i.e. the poorest in society) out of the sky as the means to reduce emissions from aviation is not only a blunt and unimaginative measure - but it is also unnecessary."

Better options included reforming air traffic control and ending state aid, which often funded outdated planes, she said.

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman also resisted higher passenger taxes, saying those on good wages would still be able to afford to go on holiday.

"What we need is a system which effectively taxes inefficient airlines or taxes those airlines that don't invest in the more modern aeroplanes," said Mr Ladyman.

That was why the government wanted aviation included in the European Union's emissions trading scheme, he argued.

Planes are not the MPs' only target. They also want bigger penalties for drivers of "gas guzzling cars".

They welcome the recent introduction of variable Vehicle Excise Duty, which means that the lowest-carbon cars pay no road tax, while gas-guzzling 4x4s pay an increased rate of £210.

But they say the measure should be extended, highlighting calls for the top band to rise to £1,800.

Under the plans, lower bands would be at £300 intervals down to the least-polluting cars which would be tax-free.

How did the people on the environmental audit committee ever become MPs? They don't seem to have a brain cell between them.

First of all, complaining that emissions from air traffic has doubled since 1990 is a red herring. This increase is because more people can now afford to fly, and that is a good thing. The MPs might as well complain (and no doubt some of them do) that the amount of pollution caused by computers has doubled since 1990, since so many more people can now afford these, as well. Perhaps the MPs will continue with their brilliant logic and suggest that computers should be taxed to death so as to encourage people to return to using a slide rule or an abacus as "environmentally friendly" alternatives to the computer.

Secondly, taxing flights is completely the wrong way to go. (This idea is a recent silly Lib Dem proposal which seems to have been accepted by the committee.) Everybody with half a brain cell knows that what should be taxed is airplane fuel, not airplane flights. Taxing flights means that airlines with fuel inefficient airplanes suffer no harm in comparison to those with fuel efficient airplanes, and so there is no encouragement to substitute the latter for the former.

Thirdly, this is indeed just a bunch of rich MPs putting up two fingers to the working class of Britain. MPs are some of the biggest users of airplanes. They should cut back their own travel before they complain about the working class now being able to afford a flight or two per year. Even worse, many flights by MPs are paid for by the taxpayer, so these MPs suffer not one iota of pain if and when more taxes are put on flights. In the aftermath of WWII, the ruling elite of Britain took it upon themselves to try and improve the lot of the working class. These days the ruling elite seems to spend most of its time trying to screw the working class.

Needless to say, the spokeswoman for Easyjet makes much more sense than any of the MPs. Air traffic control in the UK is dreadfully inefficient, and sorting that out would do a lot to reduce emissions from aircraft.

Concerning Vehicle Excise Duty, the committee again seems to have transplanted one of the silly Lib Dem policies. Vehicle Excise Duty has nothing to do with emissions. You pay the same whether you drive your car one mile or a hundred thousand miles every year. There is an existing environmental tax on cars. It's called fuel duty. Cars which are less efficient pay more tax. This is how it should be. Unfortunately this simple concept is beyond the brain capacity of your average MP. Before MPs try once more to screw car drivers even more than the UK government does already, perhaps MPs should demand a level playing field and tax all the other source of emissions in the UK (e.g. domestic electricity and gas supply). Car drivers are the only people in the UK who already pay a more than adequate carbon tax.

These MPs are part of the problem, they are not part of the solution.

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