Today\’s idiot letter to the newspapers

David Cameron once said that he wanted the coalition to be the \”greenest government ever\” (\”Government to rethink over Heathrow third runway after warning from business leaders\”). That is not going to happen by allowing an expansion of the most damaging form of transport of all.

Planes use huge quantities of fuel, and cause more damage to the climate per litre used than other forms of transport. As well as carbon dioxide, aircraft engines emit nitrogen oxide and water vapour. Water vapour leads to contrails and more cirrus clouds, which warm the Earth\’s surface.

More air travel also means more traffic congestion around the airport, and more noise for local residents. Lobbyists are arguing that we are running out of airport capacity, but instead of increasing supply, we can reduce demand by taxing aviation fuel. This should curtail the absurdity of people flying to eastern Europe for stag weekends, and leave more capacity for business use.

Richard Mountford



Mr. Mountford, you\’re a fool.

We have an international treaty that tells us we cannot tax aviation fuel. That\’s why we tax passengers instead, the Air Passenger Duty. That APD is already well above the levels of a Pigou Tax as suggested by the Stern Review.

In short, you are ignorant of what you speak of and should thus usefully remain silent.

12 thoughts on “Today\’s idiot letter to the newspapers”

  1. “curtail the absurdity of people flying to eastern Europe for stag weekends, and leave more capacity for business use” – what, for the businessmen to fly to E europe at the w/e ? Very useful.

    Alan Douglas

  2. “Water vapour leads to contrails and more cirrus clouds, which warm the Earth’s surface.”

    That’s surprising because on the days after 11/9/01 (9/11 for the Americans) when there were no planes flying above the US there was a measured increase in the diurnal temperature range of 1 degree C. So the contrails are actually cooling the Earth.

    Though as always anything to do with climate science and which is based purely on models and measurements of short periods compared to the millenia of actual climate, no one knows the real answer.

  3. Probably Lord Frederick Leathers. War Transport Minister in 1944. Or Baron Paul Henry Gore-Booth (on the Chicago Convention secretariat, on assignment from the Foreign Office.) And it was ratified by the post-war Labout government.

    But you just wanted to jump in with a semi-random insult, didn’t you? You weren’t after an answer.

  4. So lets see. we have an industry which sees itself as having the prospect of expanding, and is prepared to fund this expansion privately.
    Last I heard the British economy wasn’t doing too well- lots of unemployment, the government can’t balance the books, etc.
    So this gentleman wishes to ensure said industry doesn’t expand. Presumably that is because he thinks poverty desirable.
    I wonder whether he has a job or a pension- and whether he is volunteering to give either up too further his cause?
    As to the “most damaging form of transport of all”- that would be the train- uses vastly more fuel for a given payload (because of the vast weight of the train itself), and cuts a swathe all the way from A to B through the countryside, which swathe remains cut even if the route is abandoned.

  5. Yeah, but surely the beleagured Mr Mountford is within his rights in a democratic country with free speech to state his opinion that he thinks there should not be such a treaty.

    After all, our esteemed host frequently exercises his right of free speech to state his opinion that certain other international treaties ought no longer to be in force.

  6. @Alan Douglas,

    presumably the increased “weekend capacity” from Londoners not departing Friday night to vomit in Riga’s gutters on Saturday return Sunday, could instead be used by a businessman from Riga working in the UK and returning home for the weekend, perish the thought of airports being used for foreign businessmen entering the UK rather than UK businessmen conquering the globe.

    Not that I agree at all with Mr Mountford.

  7. His free speech rights, the Grun’s right to freely publish his whitterings and our right to call him an ignoramus are all pretty much equal. Doesn’t stop him being an idiot, though!

  8. ‘most damaging form of transport of all’ is walking.
    If we were still walking we would have a world economy little better than that during the Iron Age.
    Still, that is what Mr Mountford and his cronies want, it would seem. Not, of course, for them, just for the rest of us. He would keep his daily Guardian and Latte, his electricity, his chilled glass of an amusing Montrachet. Only those who disagree with him will suffer.

  9. “Water vapour leads to contrails and more cirrus clouds, which warm the Earth’s surface.”

    Slightly off-topic, but this is one of the most interesting points about climate change science.

    You see, we know that the single most effective Greenhouse gas is water vapour—but no one actually knows whether clouds have a positive or negative effect on warming!

    Whilst clouds most certainly keep the warmth in—your own observations will tell you that (think cold, cloudless nights)—they also have a substantial albedo effect, i.e. clouds stop the sun’s radiation hitting the earth at all.

    Now, the latest studies tend to show that, in fact, globally, clouds have a negative effect on surface global temperature but—and I’ll repeat this because it’s really incredibly important—no one actually knows.

    Until we do, this whole catastrophic climate change rubbish is just that—rubbish.


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