Good grief, a demonstration in favour of something!

While the carbon cult killjoys demonstrated on Friday outside Downing Street against the third runway for Heathrow,  a counter-demonstration organized by Modern Movement was held nearby calling for more air travel. They are a group campaigning for ‘faster, cheaper, better transport for all’.

To quote from “Our right to travel” :

“Mobility is at the centre of everyone’s lives and the expansion of cheap flights in recent decades is one of the few tangible increases in the standard of living of most people. Whereas our housing stock has not improved much in either quality or quantity, and our railways and roads are undeveloped and congested, flying has plummeted in cost and has put weekend breaks within the reach of all. Now not only the rich can enjoy the freedom of flying, but we all can.”

So the anti-flying campaign is just one more example of how green politics is hurting people.

More here and here . (Yes, it’s the Spiked and Institute of Ideas crowd.)

19 Responses to “Good grief, a demonstration in favour of something!”

  1. 1 melaleuca

    Yes the anti-flying crowd are a bunch of idiots.  But why lump moderate greens in with these fools? Surely that’s the same as someone lumping you guys in with the cuckoos over at the leftwrites blog.  BTW a good example of a moderate, pragmatic Green group is the Rocky Mountains Institute, whose motto is “Abundance by Design.” These guys are techno-optimists rather than Luddites and are routinely hired by US Government departments, including DoD, owing to their formidable track record-

  2. 2 Arthur

    slick, not stupid:”Rocky Mountain Institute’s position is that, far from being costly, protecting the climate is actually good for the economy.” That’s not stupid, like open misanthropy from “deep greens” or greenpeace putting “the planet” ahead of people. But its completely dishonest. Anything that actually costs less through less waste has nothing much to do with being “green”. Its just uncontroversial.

    Any honest green advocates that more resources should be devoted to “green” concerns, despite the cost. One doesn’t have to be green to favour a greater allocation of resources to improving the environment either, but there’s nothing dishonest about greens taking advantage of the widespread support for that by truthfully stepping forward as its most consistent advocates. It’s only dishonest when they pretend that their opponents are against improving the environment. It is completely dishonest however to pretend that measures RMI supports, like accelerating transition from oil to electric vehicles would be cost free and “good for the economy”.

    The opposition to cheap air travel highlighted in this thread is not something coming only from “deep greens” or even greenpeace. Its seen as part of the legitimate spectrum of green concerns from which the mainstream advocates do not disassociate themselves  even if they don’t put a high priority on an obvious loser.

    Its probably true, as you and David (youngmarxist) point out, that we unecessarily antagonize “moderate greens”. But its really up to you to disassociate yourselves from the stuff we are attacking. eg I didn’t see anything at RMI opposing cheap air travel, but they want less trade and freight generally, to reduce emissions AS WELL AS proposing reasonable measures to improve freight efficiency.

  3. 3 Jad

    Interesting site – its good to see some fresh thinking from the left.However, global warming or not, from a resource conservation point of view, I’m not convinced that unnecessary air travel is something that should be encouraged at the present time.In the long term a lot depends on how soon humans can begin mining the resources in space, but if global GDP keeps growing at a rate of say 5% per annum, the global economy will be 11 times its current size in 50 years, 131 times in 100 years, and more than 2 million times its current size in 300 years. Its fanciful to think such growth rates can be sustained, so it seems to me at the present time, and until space exploitation becomes feasible, a conservationist type ethic is both appropriate and progressive. Developed countries should I think be aiming for steady state economies while developing countries continue to grow.In any case, I think everyone would agree that the transition to socialism should be based on hard science and not romantic notions derived from either greenie nature worship or technological utopianism.

  4. 4 tom

    Jad, An economy 2 million times it’s present size (I’ll take your figure as sound: a) maths and I have an ambivalent relationship and b) I’m at work and have no time to check), sounds very exiting indeed, especially at such a modest growth rate (slow, actually). 

    Placing 2009 as a mid point I have no idea about what the size of the English economy was 300 years ago, for example, but the average bloke in the unsewered and unpaved street would have found its current size incomprehensible. Yet looking back, the pace of its growth, excluding the stellar period of the Industrial Revolution, has not been breathtaking. This relative sluggishness has more to do with the dampening effect of private property relations than it has to do with rescources.

    While I agree with you that we should be literally reaching for the stars (you are right, that’s where our future lies), we should also be reaching for them metaphorically, particularly in relation to development and how we understand and deal with the impediments to development. I thus disagree with your conservatism regarding current “developed countries”. I think you are on a slippery slope here as there seems to be little difference between steady economies and stagnant ones. I suspect that your caution is guided by a belief that the Earth’s rescources, while not on the brink of exhaustion, do have an end point that is sooner than we think, necessitating a “conservationist type ethic” and priority in development being given to the undeveloped or 3rd world. The end point, should there be one, is a long way into the future and certainly beyond 300 years, (see Dave McMullen’s Bright Future, available through this site).

    Suggesting that a conservationist type ethic is progressive is highly problematic; progress pushing forward, promoting change, conservation resisting.  “Conservation ethic”can do with some unpacking. It is likely to oppose wanton destruction or waste and people dominated by scarcity, for example, do not need to be convinced to adopt a sensible use of limited resources.  In this sense the communists of the USSR and of China were conservationists though with the clear aim of promoting the rapid development of the productive forces (and also of social relations). And here is the rub. Whether a conservation ethic is predominantly progressive or predominantly conservative or reactionary depends very much on the circumstances and whose interests are being served. As I read your post it is very difficult for me to avoid the conclusion that one of the key things that such an ethic will conserve is the property and social relations of capitalism (and within that, the interests and views of its most backward elements – those arguing for economic and social stasis). This may not have been your intention nor may it be a true reflection of your position – its difficult to tie off all the loose ends in posts – but I would be interested in your response.

    As for the best way for the developed world to help the developing world (short of revolution which – how can I put this? – does not appear to be immanent), increase the pace of our own development. Sorry for the flip response but time is really pressing.

  5. 5 melaleuca

    “It is completely dishonest however to pretend that measures RMI supports, like accelerating transition from oil to electric vehicles would be cost free and “good for the economy”

    You are blowing hot air out of your arse, Arthur. The transistion from horsepower to steam power was indeed good for the economy and, being techno-optimists, RMI think the next transition will likewise be good for the economy. It may be wrong but it isn’t dishonest.

  6. 6 Arthur

    Steam power replaced horse power because it was cheaper and more efficient. Eventually that may well become true of electric vehicles, but what they are advocating is accelerating the use of electric vehicles by subsidizing them and penalizing oil. Self evidently that has a cost, so the claim it is “far from costly” is equally self-evidently dishonest.Their detailed analysis seems well designed to demonstrate that cities can get lots of publicity from token efforts at a relatively small net cost (and should therefore hire them as consultants…)

    Serious proposals for accelerating the shift to electric vehicles focus on lowering the cost of electricity. It obviously cannot be done while electricity for transport costs more than oil, even if all other issues were addressed. The argument that lowering the cost of electricity would be good for the economy is compelling enough for governments to be investing billions on attempting to achieve it (with no expectation or pretence that it can be done quickly or that it would benefit from token schemes subsidized by penalties on current technology in the meantime).

    Neither colourful language, nor vague assertions about what would be “good for the economy” can substitute for actual analysis and claims that token measures achieving nothing are “far from being costly” are typical of the dishonesty of slick (not stupid) “consultants” who are the main beneficiaries of this approach.

    Contrast with serious work on actual possibilities (far from proven) like fusion, that don’t need green PR campaigns because they are at least not obviously implausible and therefore not dependent on whipping up faith. Developing fusion will certainly cost billions if it can be achieved at all. So advocates of spending and increasing those billions admit it wll be costly. Charlatans pretend that their quack remedies are cost free.

  7. 7 melaleuca

    Settle down, Arthur. You’ve read a couple of pages on the RMI website and now claim to be an expert.

    RMI has a tremendous track record and that’s why organisations as conservative as the US DoD cheerfully use their services. 

    As regards transport, RMI are more interested in hydrogen fuel cells than conventional hybrid electric vehicles.

    Also, in respect of the cost of oil, you have to factor in externalities including the cost of western foreign policy in the middle east. Let’s face it, we would care no more about Iraq than we do about Burma if its major exports were  lentils and chick peas.

  8. 8 Arthur

    1. hydrogen fuel cells depend on electricity to generate hydrogen by electolysis (as well as having other major problems).

    2. there are other topics here for discussing iraq, changing the subject is not a valid argument

    .3. the US DoD notoriously needs PR and is even more notorious for wasteful procurement.

  9. 9 Jad

    Tom, I’ve had a bit of al ook at “Bright Future” and will do more so when I have a chance. The numerous reference to Bjorn Lomborg make me a bit wary. I tend to have some faith, that despite corporate and sectional interests, the scientific mainstream heads generally in the right direction. Anyway I don’t think there is any fundamental difference between “green” and “anti-green” socialism – what differences there are can be resolved by looking at the science.

    The fundamental division between socialism and antihuman “deep ecology” is of course another matter. Regarding the developed nations I think it is a matter of redistributing what wealth there is rather than siphoning more resources away from the developing world. Obviously the best way to do this would be through revolution, though I agree that this is not immanent (though with the financial crisis who knows what’s around the corner – I noticed today that even the Daily Telegraph seems to be supporting the AWU blockade of Pacific Brands!).

    In the meantime I think green reformism has some merit. Incidentally, I was wondering whether you folk had any views of the technocracy movement ? Thye’ve been around for quite a while and advocate the abolition of the price system and the reoroganisation of society based on engineering principles and energy accounting . See also here and here .

  10. 10 dalec

    Er Arthur, if electricity for transport costs more then oil could you explain why we have electric trains and trams? Surely it would be cheaper to run them on oil? It costs about AUD$30:00 to generate 1 MWh of electricity in a baseload plant. This is the equivalent to running a 1 MW diesel or petrol engine for 1 hour. Fuel consumption of alarge diesel will be 0.3 l per kWh thus it uses 300 l for one hours operation say about $300 for 1 hour vs $30 for the same amout of energy from the baseload plant. Now run this past me again:”Serious proposals for accelerating the shift to electric vehicles focus on lowering the cost of electricity. It obviously cannot be done while electricity for transport costs more than oil,”Even with available storage technologies electricity is about 30% of the cost of oil per km.You don’t have aclue Arthur.Dalec

  11. 11 Arthur

    Obviously I was referring to the current cost of stored electricity as a transport fuel, not the cost of grid electricity.Electric trains and trams use grid power, are highly efficient and hence do not need to be the target of any green promotion. They run on tracks with grid power available. They can only transport between a relatively small number of fixed locations, with the rest of the transport system unattached to the grid just as it is unattached to tracks.Stored electricity is far more expensive. Ongoing reductions in the cost of batteries and/or fuel cells may reduce the gap but are unlikely to eliminate it until oil becomes MUCH more expensive – hence the advocacy of forcing up the price of oil instead of putting more investment into R&D for stored electricity.If stored electricity can be brought within range of being competitive, it would presumably rely on reharges from grid power widely available – certainly overnight at home, but also for rapid recharges at parking places. Base load grid power from coal and nuclear is already much cheaper than from oil and will remain so. The remaining gap between the future still more costly technology of using stored electricity for transport fuel and the future still cheaper alternative of using oil for transport could only be closed by a further reduction in the cost of base load grid power.If it became necessary to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles in transport (eg for climate change reasons) it would also be necessary to reduce the costs of recharging from base load grid power. That cannot be done by increasing the cost of oil or coal, but only by reducing the cost of nuclear or other currently unfeasible or uneconomic alternatives such as wind, geothermal, fusion, solar etc.This is more obvious in the more likely scenario of a move to hydrogen as transport fuel since the energy stored in hydrogen is stored by electrolysis – obviously relying on lower cost base load grid power.

  12. 12 tom

    Jad, labels are funny things these days in politics – especially around the division betwen what is progressive and what is not. It has become necessary to adopt a counter intuitive or a jaundiced stance to labels such as left and right. This is why we use the term pseudo left to describe what is passed off as left in most mainstream media, (indeed, most media full stop).

    By all means approach Lomborg with a jaundiced eye – it’s very odd indeed that liberalism should be offering us much that’s positive 125 years post Marx; the site is called Strange Times because, well, they are – but like you, Lomborg has faith in evidence based science and I also like his principled optimism in humanity to solve its problems and continue to develop.

    BTW Marxists have never had fundemental differences with economic liberals as to whether development should be promoted – we are on the same page. The difference, surprise, surprise, is in the how. Mao and the Four knew what they were about in clearly delineating the difference between the capitalist road and the socialist road, and Deng knew what he was about in fudging it.

    David can speak for himself of course but I suspect he cites Lomborg because his use of scientific evidence was sound and calmly reasoned – but read him yourself and draw your own conclusions. For instance I found his very considered commitment to the benifits of the market in being able to successfully address the world’s most pressing problems thought provoking, but unconvincing. What he confronts us with however (unintentionally, no doubt) are our (the left in its broadest sense) failings. Left opposition to capitalism has degenerated into leftist dogmatism with organisations that meet in broom cupboards or trends that have capitulated openly to the neo-cons or to a pseudo left position that promotes increasing amounts of state intervention and which confounds state capitalism and big, bureaucratically heavy government (this not only kills private enterprise, it kills any enterprise), with socialism.

    A section of the pseudos, perhaps its most beaten and degenerate strands have become so alienated from revolutionary or even reformist politics that they see openly fascist movements/forces in the Middle East, for example, as resistence fighters, as anti-imperialist militants. It pays to remember that the Nazis and the Japanese were anti imperialist too and that the current regime in Burma come from those sections of the Burmese population that swallowed the Japanese anti imperialist rhetoric and collaborated with them.

    I disagree with your belief that the poorer nations need to be given a bigger portion of an existing cake that we have too much of and hog like a bully in the canteen. Leaving aside the question of ownership for the moment, this fails to acknowledge how wealth is created – through the expansion of markets, of production and the cultural, scientific and technological developments which facilitate this. Redistributing ownership away from semi feudal remnants (the Middle East) or from ruling elites still bound by tribalism (much of Africa) will hasten this process. And if this occurs under revolutionary leadership such as the evolving situation in Nepal (fingers crossed) all the better and faster.

  13. 13 Jad

    I quite like your analogy re poor countries “need to be given a bigger portion of an existing cake that we have too much of and hog like a bully in the canteen.” Labor and nature are the two sources of wealth and natural resources on Earth are finite, so until we “reach for the stars” there is a limited amount of resources to go around (eg on present consumption rates, available oil reserves of approx 2.8 trillion barrels would last about 2 days in an economy 2 million times the present size). Which is not to say that I don’t think everyone in the world can be wealthy (as in having an abundance of available use values) – it is only the mad logic of capitalism that equates wealth with the consumption or hoarding of stuff.

  14. 14 dalec

    Arthur, you said “Steam power replaced horse power because it was cheaper and more efficient.” What exactly are you talking about? Stationary steam power in factories ? No I thought not. From the context I take it that the steam car supplanted the horse? No it did not.After WW1 (which had lots of horses and zero steam powered tanks) horse drawn transport was gradually supplanted by the motor vehicle. It was a rich mans plaything, cost a lot more to run, fuel and maintain than a horse; to begin with. Barry and Keza went absolutely ape shit when I  mentioned years ago that the electric vehicle was a viable transport method. “Its a rich mans toy” they cried, “nobody can afford it” – or words to that effect. So much for modernity.You are 100% wrong about the fuel costs of electric vs petrol vehicles. since you are such a mathematical wiz maybe you could dispute his math?Next the most astonishing thing :” If it became necessary to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles in transport (eg for climate change reasons) it would also be necessary to reduce the costs of recharging from base load grid power”Firstly the cost of recharging is only 25% (30% my figure) that of oil. Yes the battery and capital cost of the vehicle are factors but they are the subject of intensive research globally.But the “eg for climate change reasons” Wow, Arthur does this represent a crawling down from the position that has earned the denizens of this site almost universal mirth*. When can we expect the  official recant?* Tinged with sadness that such once intelligent and forward looking people should succumb to such raving rightwing nutbaggery.Dalec 

  15. 15 barry

    dalec always misrepresents. I never went ‘apeshit’ over the electric car (any more than I ever said that Iraq would be a ‘land of milk and honey’ following the defeat of Saddam’s regime – another example of a falsehood used by dalec). I have argued that the only electric car that interests me is one that is affordable, faster, doesn’t need to stop every 100 kms for recharging. In other words – I’m all for something better than what I/we now have. The figures that have been presented on the cost of an electric car in earlier discussions make it prohibitive for me and many other working people. (My price range is around $6,000 Australian – the most I’ve ever spent on a car).

  16. 16 dalec

    Barry, that’s my point Capitalism always first introduces new technologies for the rich to enjoy. That’s the way it works. Petrol vehicles for the rich, at first,  then as they gain acceptance they move “down market” for the proletarians. Likewise personal computers etc etc. Attempts to buck this usually fail. For example the OLPC program will fail because an iPhone (upmarket plaything) will be far cheaper and better and more functional than a laptop when it moves into the mass market. Already you can buy a container load of cheap Chinese iPhone knockoffs for litttle money.Your problem is that you want a free lunch, you want to talk about modernism, but you want it at the same cost as the old stuff. Does not work like that Barry. I have driven in electric cars that cost about the same as the equivalent petrol vehicle, you can’t buy them here for various reasons. On being that the batteries are all being snapped up by the military of various countries and used to kill people – in Iraq-for example.Dalec

  17. 17 Arthur

    There may or may not have been idiots demanding that transition from horsepower to steam power be accelerated by taxing horses and subsidizing steam. I doubt that they could have been as big a problem as similar idiots today or they would be brought up more often as a laughing stock to ridicule their modern equivalents. Only a Dalek could fail to recognize the self parody. Its rather like somebody claiming “I have driven in electric cars that cost about the same as equivalent petrol vehicle” and then explaining you cannot buy them because the parts are being used to kill people in Iraq. What could one possibly say in response that hasn’t already caused anyone reading it to laugh at the author so they already understand the joke even if its author doesn’t. There really isn’t much point exposing the mental processes of a Dalek, but I need to procrastinate at the moment…

    A succinct answer to the blog Dalek linked on cost per km is provided by the conclusion and first comment:

    “For a typical electric car, the distance driven per dollar is 4 times that for a gasoline-powered car. This analysis does not imply that the overall costs of electric vehicles is lower, since a real economic analysis has to include many other factors, not the least of which is initial cost.

    Posted by Bill at 1:44 PM

    JR said…
    Not to mention new batteries every 3 years

    The cost of stored electricity includes the cost of replacing batteries, not just buying them in the first place (which is already uneconomic). When (and only when) that gap has been reduced to the point where stored electricity is merely a more expensive technology than oil, rather than an expensive toy, one could consider appropriate means to accelerate a transition. The maths really isn’t hard.

    Leaving aside the Dalekmobile that we cannot buy because it is being used to kill people in Iraq, current electric vehicles are too expensive to take off. If they weren’t, there would be no proposals for subsidies.

    I can think of lots of better reasons to want to accelerate the transition than climate change – eg fumes, noise, convenience etc etc. There are also lots of reasons to improve battery technology other than for enabling electric vehicles. In general there is a massive underinvestment on R&D on accelerating technological change under capitalism because it devalues existing capital assets and not all the productivity gains can be captured as profits to the investors. You won’t find communists opposing increased R&D development.

    What we oppose is reactionary proposals to retard economic growth by penalizing it – whether openly under the banner that the masses should not be allowed to fly as with cheap air fares, or using dishonest pretence that an agenda of taxing oil and subsidizing expensive electric vehicles is not the same agenda of restricting travel by the masses so that only the much smaller numbers of more wealthy people can afford it. Naturally both agendas (which go together with localism, small is beautiful and so on) sell better as being “for the planet”. It is of course true that since there are far less rich people than the rest of us, there will be far fewer resources consumed if only rich people could afford them. That does not make the proposals altruistic and “green”. Its still the same old black reaction.

  18. 18 dalec

    You guys are really slow on the uptake. I gave you an out with a tongue in cheek reference to Iraq and you took it like dying men.My point still stands, new forms of tranport (or any-thing else) are, under capitalism, the province of the rich.In the early days of the automobile you needed a driver, a mechanic and arrangements to bring the vehicle back after it broke down (frequently). At the same time there were reactionary old fudddy duddy’s banging on about how awful the ‘car was and how it would never amount to any-thing becuase it cost too much; and what was wrong with horses any-way.The essential point is that the “fuel” costs per km for an electric vehicle are 25%  that of oil. The energy conversion is > 80% vs < 20% for oil or gas. Better batteries are coming through the system and will eventually become available on the non military market – where they attract a huge premium.There is probably one thing we would agree. Subsidies at the point of sale are death to new technologies. For example the consumer subsidy on Photo Voltaic systems has set the technology back by about 15 years in my estimation. You have to be careful about subsidies, Boeing and Airbus enjoy huge subsidies but if these result in lower capital cost, lower running cost and safer ‘planes then the subsidies are justifiable. If the same subsidie were applied to the consumer end then we would probably be flying around in DC3’s – much to the delight of the denizens of this site “see we don’t need these new fangled planes or electric vehicles after all”.No doubt you guys will next write about how awful the “privitisation” of space travel is and how space travel is only for the rich. Yes stamp it out I say, modernism costs too much!Dalec

  19. 19 Arthur

    As usual Dalek descends into dribble. The topic is about support for cheap mass air travel. From that Dalek deduces we would be opposed to cheaper and better electric vehicles and to cheap mass space travel. The reactionary fuddy duddy’s banging on about how awful the car is are needless to say the Greens Dalek supports, not the reds.

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