Posts Tagged transport
What? I hear you say. Praise for an airline in the Green Review? Am I reading the right blog? Well; yes you are. And I have to say that – praise where praise is due – this is a really good idea.
British Airways, like most other airlines, will be very quick to tell us that they are doing their bit to protect the planet, and none of us will really believe them. Nevertheless, the world’s favourite airline could soon be on its way to becoming the world’s greenest airline if this project is successful.
BA is pioneering the world’s first waste bio jet fuel plant. Now, I’ve already had a pop at bio fuels for airlines, calling it a load of old greenwash, and I don’t agree with biofuels in general. However, I am a firm believer in fuels derived from waste, which is what BA are intending to manufacture.
Of course there is still the issue of carbon emissions from airlines and the fact that they release these emissions directly into a very sensitive part of the atmosphere. This impact will not be cured by a simple swap of fuels. That said, though, some figures say that lifecycle carbon emission reductions of 95% will be possible when compared to traditional jet kerosene, but we’ll see about that eh? (That’s not the sound of me being cynical is it? Never)
These lower emissions will – in part – be down to the fuel being produced in East London, practically next door to London City Airport and only a few miles from London Heathrow Airport. I also like that if this is adopted en-masse, it could potentially reduce our dependency on imported oil and we could see a home-grown fuel industry spring up that has the added bonus of reducing the amount of waste we have to send to landfill.
The biomass plant will use the Fischer-Tropsch process to turn the waste into fuel, and as an added bonus, will power itself and also put 20MW of electricity back into the grid, at the same time. Neat.
According to BA, “The first plant, being built in partnership with US-based green energy specialist Solena Group, is due to enter full production in 2015. Once completed, the London plant – costing £200 million to build – will convert up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel, enough to power 2 per cent of BA’s operation. The waste will come from food scraps and other household material such as grass and tree cuttings, agricultural and industrial waste.”
Of course 2 per cent sounds measly, which I guess it is in the grand scheme of things, but it is a step in the right direction and this is a pretty major innovation. I mean just imagine if every airline in the world were using the waste of the cities they are serving and producing their own ‘clean’ fuel right on their own doorsteps.
I do not condone the massive expansion of the airline industry, nor the way many of these low cost carriers are run (in particular the accident-waiting-to-happen that is Ryanair) and I do think we are jumping on a plane far too readily. However, air travel is an essential part of our modern lives and I think – if we’re honest – we would all miss it if it were gone. We certainly wouldn’t see the type of climate change and environmental summits that we see today – even if some of them are as useful as a hydroelectricity plant in the Sahara.
So can we envision a world where all of our planes – in fact all of our transport is running on waste? I doubt it. But this is a step toward tackling the increasing emissions from the airline industry while additionally securing our future energy supplies. Well done BA, let’s hope this works as well as you say it will.
In other airline news; The Major of London, Boris Johnson, has seen plans for his Thames Estuary Airport seriously dented, as the area earmarked for the development has just been included on a list of Nature Improvement Areas, throwing a huge green spanner into the planning application process. Oops.
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I came to a scary realisation the other day: I like traffic wardens. Yes you heard me: I like traffic wardens. And do you know what? I think I can convince you to as well.
Now, first of all I think I should mention that, yes I drive a car, yes I spend a huge amount of money on paying for car parks (and a parking permit), yes I have been given a number of tickets in my time, and no, I am not mad.
My mindset is born of this:
They are here to help: Yes that’s right, traffic wardens are the guardians of our roads, and without them many roadsides would be in a right old mess. For example, how often have you seen a car parked so badly and so illegally it beggars belief that someone could be that much of a selfish ar~~~ole.* Well, if our friendly traffic wardens weren’t around, we could expect a lot more of that. In fact a great number of our urban highways would become virtually impassable if people just parked where they want. To highlight what I am saying; next time you’re out just have a look at how many double yellow lines there are and picture how cramped things could get if these areas we’re filled with cars instead. And come on; admit it – who doesn’t just love seeing a traffic warden slapping a little black and yellow square of misery to someone else’s car windshield, eh? You know you do.
* I don’t usually like to swear in my blog as I feel it just demonstrates a lack of vocabulary. However in this instance, I really couldn’t think of a more appropriate word to use. Sorry.
They don’t write the rules: Traffic wardens are just there to enforce the rules (and thank goodness for that). If a local council has put down parking restrictions in a place they really shouldn’t be, don’t blame the traffic wardens; blame the pen pushers and planners. Also, when you get to your car just as the ticket is being issued, don’t have a go at the traffic warden for not rescinding it – he can’t. Just imagine if he could: our towns would be filled with traffic wardens being chased around by irate drivers attempting to get a let off. It would be like football a match where the referee runs around the pitch trying to shake off a clutch of indignant footballers after showing one of them a red card. Chaos. If you do want to be let off a ticket you have to write to the local council. More often than not, it’s those guys who are the ones who don’t have a shred of sympathy in them and will throw out your appeal as soon as look at it.
They just want to be loved: Probably true, but here’s where I must stop generalising. I feel very lucky that I live in a city where the majority of traffic wardens are not only nice, cordial people, but will also overlook a minor parking infringement more often than not. There are, however, traffic wardens out there who like their job just a little too much and will love to write you a ticket. These are the ones who will stick a ticket on you for going over your limit by smaller amount of time that even the Hadron Collider can measure. There are also the ones who will give you a ticket if that stone stuck between the treads of your tyre is within a hair’s width of the edge of the yellow line. Yes, these ones are not included in my musings. Nor are the private wheel clamping firms: they are a different thing altogether.
I think so many of our negative feelings towards these guys come from the fact that we feel we have the right park anywhere so long as “we’ll only be a couple of minutes”. Unfortunately though, if we do break the rules and get caught, we only have ourselves to blame.
You know, there are so many other things to despise in this world – terrorists, crooked politicians, middle-lane drivers – that one less to worry about can only be good for your health.
So there you are. Have I turned you around and allowed you see our humble traffic warden in a new light, or do you still think they are money-grabbing scum who would step over their dying grandmother just to slap a ticket on your car?
I know that at some point(s) in the future I will break the parking rules. If I do though, I’m not going to waste any negative emotions on the traffic warden issuing the fine. I’ll just shrug and think back to what I have written here.
Ok then, this is a very simple Eco-Lie, but one which I couldn’t ignore (as it’s stuck on a van parked in my street).
Telecommunications company, BT, are putting these stickers on the back of their vans in an attempt to convince us they’re protecting the environment by limiting their vehicles to 70mph.
Erm, sorry? I may have missed something here, but aren’t all vehicles on UK roads limited to 70mph? You know; by that little-understood phenomenon known as the speed limit? It’s much more likely that BT simply are trying to protect their fuel bills.
If they’re really concerned about protecting the environment, perhaps they should consider limiting their vehicles to 50mph and adding a rev limiter as well. Agreed, this may not prove too popular with the drivers, but we’re not trying to protect them, are we?
I suppose that – in principle – the idea of limiting vans to 70mph is a good idea. At least it would save us from glancing up at a rearview mirror filled with the business-end of a commercial van as it tries to stake a claim to the fast lane of the motorway. However, for BT to stick this on the back of its vehicles is blatant greenwashing. Please guys, we’re not that naive. It’s fair enough for a company to reduce costs, but claiming it’s for environmental reasons is just taking the mick.
Still; at least their vans are faster than their broadband.
So, as the Eco-Lie wall of shame claims another victim, it’s time to don my ‘Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker hat and partake in some snooping to uncover more instances of gratuitous greenwashing. In the meantime, will someone please give BT a ring and let them know how silly they look?
Can I also just thank my six-year old daughter for her covert mission to snap this picture for me without the owner of the van noticing. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a lovely guy, but he may have raised an eyebrow had he seen me snapping away at the rear of his vehicle. Well done Sweetie, good job.
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Photo courtesy of My Little Girl
On a couple of occasions recently, while trundling along minding my own business, I have noticed that written on the back of the (painfully normal) car in front is the word ‘eco’. Well, the profanities issuing forth from my mouth at this point are akin to those normally reserved for middle lane drivers and those who don’t signal at roundabouts (Oh, I can feel my blood boiling right now). Ok, well maybe the word ‘eco’ in connection with a car doesn’t make me that mad; but it does still make be blink twice in incredulity.
What on Earth is ‘eco’ about a car? Yes they are necessary, yes I own one, and yes a little Fiat 500 is better for the planet than a Range Rover. However, all cars pollute the atmosphere, require enormous amounts of raw materials and energy to manufacture and when they reach the end of their relatively short life (around 8 years or 150,000 miles) they require a huge amount of infrastructure to dispose of properly – which, admittedly has improved in recent years.
I agree that it’s a good thing these manufacturers are addressing their products’ impact on the planet, but calling cars green is stretching it at best; calling them ‘eco’ is just way off the mark. And also (yes I know, one shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘and’, but I’m having a rant so leave me alone) … where was I? Oh yes. And also, when they add this word ‘eco’ they follow it up with some marketing spiel like, “because we feel you shouldn’t have to compromise performance just because you want a car that’s kind to the planet, blah, blah, blah”. Ok then, if you’re not sacrificing performance; why not make all of your cars like this’?
In fact, don’t take my word for it, here’s some sales pitch from Vauxhall, written verbatim – but watch for the twist at the end: “We all love cars and we all love to drive. We still want performance, practicality and a pleasurable experience behind the wheel. The big question is – can you have both?” Erm, both? Don’t you mean all three? Blimey, who writes this stuff? More to the point, who checks it? Idiots.
Ford also make me laugh with their sales pitch: “So while you’re helping the environment, you’ll be helping your bank balance too.” Since when did buying a brand new car help either the environment or one’s balance? Fools.
Now I’m sure that most of the owners of these cars feel they are doing their bit by buying an ‘eco’ model, and perhaps they are. I must also praise some manufacturers for really making an effort to improve their impact on the planet. However, I just can’t agree that a word essentially meaning ‘in harmony with nature’ is used to describe a car. Hyundai, for instance, call their lower emissions range Blue Drive. Nice.
So, that being said, am I simply getting hung up on a single word, when the concept is the same? You betcha I am! My problem is what that word conveys, and when it’s used so out of context, then I believe it to be misleading. Yes, I do have a problem with that.
One last thing on the subject of cars: Is it me, or is the BMW X6 by far the most pretentious car on the road, mostly driven by guys with a massive ego and a tiny… conscience?
So there. Another one to add to the great Eco-Lie outbreak. Next time, I shall look at an Eco-Lie that anyone who has stayed in a hotel cannot have missed. Can you guess what it is?
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