Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Not-Real Cost of Air Travel

The Independent got its head caught between the cheeks this weekend (If you wonder why I'm so behind, it's because blog builds up over time and I have to find opportunities to vent spleen). They ran their usual screamer front page with a giant headline "The Real Cost of Air Travel" and a map of European destinations giving the figures for CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, along with various size-of-Belgium type comparisons. (For example, Oslo was the weight of four reindeer in carbon.)

Unfortunately, the figures given couldn't possibly be right.

I thought they sounded high, and reading the small print explained why. Their working assumption was that the aircraft was always a Boeing 747, whereever in the world it was supposed to be going. Now, there are many good reasons why nobody flies London-Paris with a B747, but one of the biggest is that it would be wildly uneconomic due precisely to the spectacular waste of fuel! The 747 was designed to be efficient over intercontinental distances, just as 737s and Airbus 320s are to be efficient in short haul.

Unsurprisingly, they didn't say whether they assumed a 747-400 or Classic - which would have been significant.

This drives me up the wall with inchoate fury. Surely, surely, surely it helps no-one to give people dodgy figures? Even if the idea was to scare them, the risk is that they will never believe any environmental stats again.

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