Emissions trading – notes on a scandal

Another day, another broadside against carbon emissions trading. The FT’s Martin Wolf offers advice to the new Chancellor, including:

While simplifying tax, he should also take a close look at green taxation. Simple taxes that apply across-the-board are what is needed. The grant of valuable rights to big polluters through systems known as “cap-and-trade” is a scandal. [here]

This is an increasing theme, with even American giants like Alan Greenspan and Paul Volker coming out against cap ‘n’ trade and in favour of a carbon tax [see article]. I have to say I’m ever more swayed by this view, see my posting To Cap or to Tax.

But is the EU system ‘a scandal’, as Martin Wolf says? Continue reading “Emissions trading – notes on a scandal”

Women – cycle and live!

Mia culpa on the cycling and jumping red lights thing [see silly Cyclists obey the law and die post]. An excellent analysis by Marianne Promberger completely fillets the figures and trashes conclusions drawn in the media (and reported uncritically by me…) read her analysis here. For London, the proportion of cycle casualties (fatal, serious and slight) has been stable at around 79% male to 21% female since 2002 [source]. In 2001, the split of London cycle journeys was 73% male to 27% female [source] – which suggests that men have more casualties per journey. These figures are summarised here. Continue reading “Women – cycle and live!”

Cyclists – obey the law and die…!

Women are more at risk of dying in cycle accidents, it seems, because they are more likely to obey the law and stop at traffic lights than the typical male ‘warrior of the road’ [see article in The Times: Women cyclists ‘risk death’ by obeying traffic lights].

After endless close shaves or nerve grinding moments, every cyclist eventually comes to feel risk instinctively. (One of the obvious consequences of the recent expansion of cycling in London is the large number of new cyclists who haven’t yet developed this instinct, and are apparently oblivious to hair-raising situations!). But I can believe the report about jumping lights being safer – one of the risky moments is pulling away from traffic lights when other traffic or pedestrians can make quite unpredictable moves and it is easy not to be seen. From now on, I resolve to carefully disobey traffic lights where this will reduce risk – it’s a health and safety matter, or even a matter of survival. But what do we know of the risks…? Continue reading “Cyclists – obey the law and die…!”

Road pricing politics – the art of listening and counting

The politics of the now-closed road pricing petition have been terrible for the environment and quality of life, with 1.8 million people given a space to vent mob rage and duck difficult choices. Progress will slow, unjustified concessions will be made, and hesitation and equivocation will be the order of the day – at least that is the impression left by the PM’s e-mail response to the petition.

I’ve already gone through the arguments about this sorry saga in No 10 road pricing petition, beware what you wish for… so I wont repeat that here… But I did wonder how the counter petitions were doing. There are probably two that are worth looking at: at 8.30pm 26 Feb, this was the position… Continue reading “Road pricing politics – the art of listening and counting”

Food miles… wrong idea, stop using it!

I do occasionally enjoy an early morning BLT sandwich at Paddington station en route to the Bristol head office of my employer – a small comfort before what inevitably lies ahead. But imagine my horror to be informed that the humble bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich may have 31,000 “food miles” embodied in it (and much more besides) – see Ecologist article here. Horreur!

This is one of the more nonsense applications of the concept of food miles – for example, it turns out that 5,961 of these ecologically destructive miles were accounted for by the yeast that would be used to make the bread…! Presumably a single freight container of yeast shipped by sea would keep the UK in bread for months and have minimal environmental impact. This is a bit of a weakness in the food miles concept, isn’t it…? Especially when applied to specific products that may have only tiny quantities of ingredients shipped many miles. Many of the international food miles are done in bulk by container ships that have very low economic and environmental costs per kilogram-kilometre of freight movement.

What’s the real story…? Continue reading “Food miles… wrong idea, stop using it!”

Renewable energy targets – why is the European Union involved?

The European Union has been busy setting out ambitious ideas for energy and climate policy – see Energy for a Changing World, and the climate change and energy announcements made in January. But is it trying to do too much of the wrong thing in trying to determine member states’ approach to renewables? I think so…

There are three main problems… Continue reading “Renewable energy targets – why is the European Union involved?”

No 10 road pricing petition – beware what you wish for…

A new system for citizens’ petitions on the Prime Minister’s web site has attracted well over 1 million signatures for a motion to: “Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy“. Extensive news coverage [BBC] and ministerial response [BBC] have followed. Despite a recent speech on Winning the debate on road pricing, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander looks as though he may in danger of losing it.

The idea of the petition is great in some ways, but flawed in others: Continue reading “No 10 road pricing petition – beware what you wish for…”

Cooling the Tube – a smug cyclist writes about how hot it gets on the Underground and why

Now back from hols and ready for the next blogging season, but I must turn first to a seemingly obscure but urgentsummer matter – heat transfer in the London Underground. This summer saw headlines proclaiming temperatures reaching 47 degrees (BBC) and than the rather forlorn and inadequate survival advice to passengers from Transport for London. The bad news is that this is all going to get worse. Continue reading “Cooling the Tube – a smug cyclist writes about how hot it gets on the Underground and why”

Treasury all talk – tax vehicles as if carbon emissions really matter

News reports that the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) recommends raising the top rate of Vehicle Excise Duty to £1,800 (Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transport report para 52). This would be for the most polluting cars. At present, the lowest band is £40 per year and highest band of VED is just £215 for a vehicle producing more than 225 grams of CO2 per kilometre (see rates).

An excellent calculator at the Vehicle Certification Agency gives CO2 costs and VED for any make and model. The range is from 104 gCO2/km for the most fuel efficient car (Toyota Prius) up to 488 for the most monsterous SUV (Crysler Jeep Dodge SRT-10) or 520 for the most OTT sporst car (Lamborghini Diablo 2001 model).

In his March 2006 Budget speech, the Chancellor claimed that with this system of taxation: “I want to do more to encourage cleaner fuels and cars. I propose to radically reform vehicle excise duty.”

The point is that the current VED will do little to encourage cleaner fuels and cars and is anything but radical. Continue reading “Treasury all talk – tax vehicles as if carbon emissions really matter”