Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Easy Jet; the law of supply and demand; and the real truth on carbon offsetting

No comments:
Yesterday my blog focus was on Ryanair's boss Michael O'Leary. Writing that blog entry reminded me of a poster I'd seen recently whilst walking to work to deliver a tutorial (ironically about climate change and ecological footprints). Near the junction of St Lukes Rd and York Rd I saw a large orange poster advertising an easy Jet offer 'Bristol to Madeira from only £24.99'. This sends out exactly the opposite message of the one I would want and I dont see it as ethical. Flying is not in fact even remotely like a low cost activity (see here for an excellent description of why by George Monbiot - who is speaking in Bristol soon) and therefore should not be priced as such or facilitated by expanding airports.

By the law of supply and demand offering flights at very low cost means that demand for them is likely to be very high (exactly what we are seeing), unless some other powerful factor is in operation to deter people. Easy Jet's website has an environment page detailing things like being efficient on the gound, efficient in the air, carbon offsetting, aircraft design and its Corportate Social Responsibility report. The trouble is that the factors they describe are, in terms of environmental effects, completely outweighed by the company's main aim of getting vast numbers of people to fly more and more often !

Easy Jet might respond by saying that people can offset their carbon emissions but planes emit more than carbon (eg water vapour, nitrogen oxides, particulates...) and there are many problems with offsetting, as I've discussed previously. According to the easy Jet carbon calculator flying Bristol to Madeira emits, per person, 195kg of carbon dioxide and that the
offsetting cost per person is £2.54. If only tackling carbon emissions was that straightforward!!

Government advice to business and individuals is 'that carbon offsetting is not a substitute for reducing emissions at source but is: the ‘next best’ solution for mitigating remaining emissions from essential activities after all practical steps have been taken to reduce them' I tried extremely hard to find comments like this on the easy Jet site , looking at all the pages, following links to other pages and documents, but could not find anything like them at all - no surprise really.

Easy Jet want to give the impression that carbon offsetting is a better, much more environmentlly friendly and effective option than it really is of course. They simply aren't going to tell people that they should take 'all practical steps' to cut emissions before considering offsetting the rest - because this would mean not flying at all or flying fewer miles or on fewer occasions!!