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Friday, February 09, 2007

Debate with the Department of Transport on Airport Expansion

As a change from debating with David Drew MP about why we should protest against airport expansion, I have now engaged the transport secretary (or at least one his representitives). They have finally given a response to the initial letter that I sent in December.

Click on the link above to read the letter from the department for transport and judge for yourself the strength of the arguement to support airport expansion.

My response back follows below, which is also copied to David Drew:-


Dear Emily,

Thank you for the letter that you have sent my son on behalf of the Transport Secretary, which I have taken the liberty to respond to on his behalf.

I have referred to the governments 2003 White Paper, The Future of Air Transport and the subsequent progress report of December 2006, which you referenced in your letter to try and understand the specifics of your points.

The progress report states that the aircraft industry is “adopting a target to improve fuel efficiency by 50 per cent per seat kilometre in new aircraft in 2020 compared to 2000.”

A recent IPCC investigation into aircraft efficiency improvements concludes that “Because of the very long total lifetimes of today's aircraft (up to 50 years), however, replacement rates are low, and the fuel efficiency of the whole fleet will improve slowly.”

Further to this Boeing’s Walt Gillette who is the Vice President and Airplane Manager of the 7E7 says “The 7E7 will use less fuel per passenger than an A380 and Boeing has set itself a target of reducing the 7E7's fuel consumption by 20 percent compared with comparable types around today, such as the 767.”

As the 7E7 will be the most fuel efficient airplane in the skies for the next 20 years, can you explain where the other 30% of fuel efficiency that the airlines are committing to will come from, even given the unreasonable assumption that all the future planes flying will be 7E7s. If not, can I reasonably conclude that the 50% target in your papers does not represent a realistic target? Also, given that we are 7 years into the 20 year time frame for a 50% overall fuel improvement, could you advise on the progress that the airline industry has made towards these targets.

In your letter, you state that the White Paper has rejected proposals for development at some airports, it does however state “The Government therefore supported the development of two new runways in the South East: at Stansted and at Heathrow.” In addition, it also supports significant service increases at regional airports.

On your point on the APD, the feedback from passengers on BBC reports on the day of its introduction was that the additional charge was too small to stop people flying. In your letter, you have stated that the APD will result in savings equivalent to three quarters of a million tonnes of carbon. Can you confirm how this estimate has been derived and what percentage of the total fuel burnt by the aircraft industry this represents?

In your letter and in the white papers, you state that the government is committed to a reduction in CO2 of some 60%. The white papers say that this can be achieved by carbon trading under the proposed EU mechanisms. Unfortunately, the white paper does not give any consideration as to how this will be achieved, other than to imply that savings made by other industries will offset aviation. Can you say which other industries will make savings and can you give assurances that these industries will not simply relocate to other countries (i.e. China) which are not in the trading mechanism to continue operations? Can you confirm if you have contacted other heavy industries to confirm that they will be prepared to cut manufacturing output to support the airline industry?

In the light of last weeks damning IPCC report and the governments attempt to stem demand by the introduction of the APD, can you confirm if the government or the transport secretary is reconsidering the proposals to develop new airport infrastructure across the country?

I am also copying my MP (David Drew) on this reply.

Kevin Lister

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