Monday, May 22, 2006

Slow is smart

A burning issue: As road vehicle fuel costs climb, visits to fuel stations are a quick way to burn money. I've been aware for some time of the relationship between speed and fuel consumption and now, this is dramatically confirmed by carefully-conducted tests of various models of cars. It doesn't matter whether it's petrol or diesel, gas-guzzling SUV or hybrid, fuel consumption soars as your driving speed goes up.

Steer us to diesels: That was the title of a piece I wrote for the Telegraph Magazine many years ago. It made the still-valid point that, mile for mile and size for size, diesel cars are up to 30% more efficient than petrol. Even the so-called 'economical' hybrids still can't touch the best small diesels. I have just about the most economical car on the road - Ford's best kept secret - a diesel Fusion. (See what Green Consumer guide says about its fuel consumption.) Its CO2 emissions are just 116grams per kilometre and I find that it averages around 65mpg/3.6 litres per 100 kilometres. It's surprisingly roomy and more economical than the best hybrid. Why doesn't everyone buy something similar? I got mine second hand a year ago.

Slow down for the planet! So with an economical car AND by driving gently - that's no violent acceleration and braking; keeping to speed limits and cruising at much less than the 70mph speed limit where it applies - you can start making a big difference to your emissions (and bank balance) right away. Oh, and better for the planet too!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

War on the atmosphere: military aircraft emissions

Low-flying aircraft above our polytunnel Insult to injury: George Monbiot's recent piece on aircraft emissions prompts this post; something I've been considering for some time. It is, in turn, prompted by the daily screech and roar of military aircraft over this 'peaceful' country haven in north Wales. Quite apart from any other considerations, this daily air and noise pollution is a continual affront to our attempts to live here as sustainably as possible. With one economical car (65mpg average and 116 grams/kilometre CO2 output), a wood-burner, low-energy lights, insulation and central heating used sparingly, our lifestyle is as low carbon as you can reasonably get in the carbon-fuel-dependent UK. Probably these aircraft burn up what we use in a year in just a couple of hours... but I don't know. Who does?... Or is it secret?

Aircraft emissions and the atmosphere: Okay, here's the issue: we know aircraft emissions are really bad for the environment, especially those at high altitude. Just how much fuel do the airforces of the world squander on training flights (or war games for big boys and their very expensive toys as I'm uncharitably inclined to regard them after the tenth jet in twenty minutes)? What proportion of total aircraft emissions do they represent? I have no idea but I'll bet it's more than you might think. No doubt it's a closely-guarded military secret. And what's it all for? That gross euphemism 'defence' (Orwell warned of this) is bandied about by politicians everywhere. But what's the point of it all (and upgrading nuclear 'deterrents' come to that)? In what way are these scary warplanes and their undoubtedly skilled pilots increasing our security in Britain? Consider little Costa Rica appropriately about the size of Wales: This little country doesn't have an airforce or any military force. The country is still there... and it has land borders with its neighbours making invasion easy, unlike seabound Britain.

Is war more important than climate? The biggest problem facing the planet now is climate change. Most of us, including politicians, would agree with that. So who is about to attack the UK which requires a large active fuel-burning airforce to repel? Terrorists? But everyone knows that terrorists' weapons are suicide bombers and cars packed with explosives. They don't use aircraft - except as flying bombs, one infamous day, in 2001. So why must we put up with this squandering of limited resources on things like military aircraft and the resultant pollution which endangers everyone, not to mention useless nuclear weaponry? Or is there another agenda we ordinary folk don't hear about, like invading Iran - as if the disaster of the US/UK invasion of Iraq wasn't lesson enough? Or maye it's just successive UK governments' desire to have access to the 'top tables' with their American friends, perpetuating the absurd post-colonial notion of 'punching above our weight' and the so-called 'special relationship' which must be nurtured at all costs? That's a lot of questions but how can I get some answers? I have asked my MP to enquire and he is doing so.

Lives are at stake here.