Archived Jul 16 2009
Transport - July 16
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England's pork barrel politics is paying for airlines to burn the planet
George Monbiot, Guardian
Demand for new routes and airports comes not from passengers but unelected, unaccountable development agencies
Here's an odd thing. Air travel to and from the United Kingdom has plummeted. Several small airlines have gone bust; British Airways has deployed its landing gear. In some respects, according to the industry, this descent could be permanent. Yet the government is still planning to double the capacity of our airports by 2030.
... Now here's an even odder thing. For years campaigners have said that the government should intervene to discourage the growth in flying. More flights means more misery for the people living underneath. It also means more global warming. In 2007, before the airline crisis began, air transport turnover (including freight) in the UK was £20bn. Aviation accounted for 0.78% of total business turnover, a smaller proportion than the machinery rental sector. Yet it produced 13% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. The case for impeding further growth seemed strong.
Ministers responded that you can't buck the market: it would be wrong for government to interfere. So here's the kicker. I've just received the last response to the information requests my researcher, Ketty Dean, has been making about airport policy. Our research shows that during the last 10 years government agencies have spent £80m on helping private enterprise to increase the number of flights.
Airports in the UK are – or are supposed to be – commercial operations. Airport companies build them, then recoup their money by leasing space and landing rights to carriers and renting out pitches for shops. Until we had completed this research, government policy looked wrong but consistent: the free market was being allowed to let rip, regardless of the environmental consequences. Now we know that the government has intervened to accelerate this growth.
... These payments are unwarranted, outrageous, disgraceful. The devolved governments are spending their sparse discretionary funds on wrecking the environment and subsidising the shopping trips, holidays and second homes of the middle classes (who take the majority of flights).
(6 July 2009)
Related article in the FT - Tories urged to back Heathrow expansion
Groups plan pedal power for the homeless
Adam Crisp, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Homeless people spend so much of their days walking that foot-related health problems rank among their chief complaints, advocates say.
And all that time spent hoofing it from one service to another means less time spent on searching for jobs or housing.
That's why the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and Outdoor Chattanooga teamed up to give the homeless some pedal power.
"A bicycle is just a very efficient means of transportation," said Philip Pugliese, bicycle coordinator for Outdoor Chattanooga. "If it can enable someone to make it to another business, another place of employment, or another service, that can help them better themselves."...
(6 July 2009)
Ontario looks to jolt electric car market
Karen Howlett and Greg Keenan, The Globe and Mail
The strategy includes a commitment by Ontario that plug-in or electric vehicles will make up 20 per cent of the government's fleet by 2020, sources familiar with the program said yesterday.
In addition, Mr. McGuinty will reiterate a promise made in 2007 that such vehicles will gain access to high-occupancy lanes on expressways and special parking spaces at GO Transit and government lots, as well as be given a green licence plate.
The first plug-in hybrids – also known as extended-range electric vehicles – are scheduled to arrive later this year when Toyota Motor Corp. makes available a plug-in version of its Prius. But the highest-profile hybrid-electric event will be the appearance on the roads next year of the Chevrolet Volt from General Motors Co.
...Ontario took its first tiny steps to position itself for the coming revolution in electric cars by joining forces with California high-tech company Better Place, which is working with partners to build battery recharging stations for electric cars. Better Place plans to open a demonstration centre in Toronto next year.
Submitted by EB contributor Scott Lamont, who also submitted this related article "Vancouver gives boost to electric cars".
(14 July 2009)
On the Streets of China, Electric Bikes Are Swarming
Austin Ramzy, Time Magazine
Of all the things that have changed in China over the past 30 years, transportation has undergone one of the most obvious of transformations. However, in China, electric bicycles are now leaving cars in the dust. Last year, Chinese bought 21 million e-bikes, compared with 9.4 million autos. While China now has about 25 million cars on the road, it has four times as many e-bikes.
In China, electric bicycles are leaving cars in the dust. Last year, Chinese bought 21 million e-bikes, compared with 9.4 million autos. While China now has about 25 million cars on the road, it has four times as many e-bikes. Thanks to government encouragement and a population well versed in riding two wheels to work, the country has become the world's leading market for the cheap, green vehicles, helping to offset some of the harmful effects of the country's automobile boom. Indeed, as engineers around the world scramble to create eco-friendly, plug-in electric cars, China is already ahead of the game.
...The e-bike boom owes much to Chinese policy. The government made developing e-bikes an official technology goal in 1991. Major Chinese cities have extensive bicycle lanes, which means riders can avoid the worst of rush-hour congestion. In cities such as Shanghai, local governments have drastically raised licensing fees on gas-powered scooters in recent years, effectively driving hoards of consumers to e-bike manufacturers.
The relative simplicity of the machines and their components has encouraged a huge number of e-bike companies to open in China. In 2006 there were 2,700 licensed manufacturers, and countless additional smaller shops. Rising to the top of the heap is not easy. Leading manufacturer Xinri (the name means "new day") was founded in 1999 by Zhang Chongshun, an auto parts factory executive who recognized the potential of the field. In its first year Xinri built less than 1,000 bikes; last year it churned out 1.6 million.
(14 June 2009)
Sent in by EB contributor Thomas Christiansen
Get wired (again): Trolleybuses and Trolleytrucks
Kris De Decker, Low Tech Magazine
A large-scale introduction of electric cars faces many technological hurdles and promises to be time-consuming and expensive.
Greening public transportation and cargo traffic, on the other hand, could be done fast with existing technology for a reasonable price - if we opt for the trolleybus and the trolleytruck.
A trolleybus (or "trackless trolley") can be defined in two ways; as an electric bus that gets its power from overhead cables, or as a tram (or "street car") that drives on rubber tyres. Whichever way you look at it, this combination of bus and tram is the most ecological (motorised) means of transport that exists in the world today. Just like all other electrically powered vehicles (cars, trains, trams) a trolleybus does not produce exhaust fumes, is more efficient than vehicles with a combustion engine, and can drive on renewable energy. The trolleybus, however, has interesting advantages over other electric vehicles.
...All too often we are blind for the costs of high-tech. If we cannot afford a technology, it is of not much use. Low-tech options that have been proven to work can deliver much better results for a bargain. The technology to completely electrify land based transportation has been available for over a hundred years. If we want to, we can do the switchover in just a few years time. Let's start with public transport and cargo traffic, and then let's see what to do with cars - if we still need them.
(10 July 2009)
Photo credit: flickr/poida.smith