Monthly Archives: August 2007

now only 28p/minute

You may be a little confused yourself as to how exactly New Labour has managed to go from abandoning almost every road scheme when they came to power over ten years ago to spending the ungodly sum of £13bn expanding the roads network. Well, it turns out that it’s all the fault of some quite bonkers economic calculations in the DFT. I strongly recommend you take a look at the article because it’s a really good example of why sometimes you have to stop thinking in terms of numbers and calculations to reach a decision and instead take a look outside the window and breath in. Or even in this case, bother to take a look at the oil price. If they’re right that the Eddington review was based on a 30$ price for a barrel of oil then pretty much all transport policy is suspect and beyond contempt. Here’s a fair example:

How does this work in practice? Look, for example, at the scheme to widen a 56km stretch of the M1 between junctions 30 and 42. The cost to the taxpayer is £1.5bn, which sounds like a lot, but the Highways Agency has used the Nata system to claim that, over the next 60 years, the widening is worth no less than £4.5bn because of the time it will save travellers. Since this supposed “benefit” to the economy far exceeds the cost, the scheme has been approved.

Just how biased this system can be is set out in the Nata rules that assign lower values to other types of traveller. A minute saved on a cyclist’s travel time, for example, isn’t worth 44p but just 28p. A bus-user’s time is valued at 33p a minute. The implicit assumption is that cyclists and bus-users make less contribution to the economy than car drivers.

But I guess we knew this, and I don’t say this just because I want a bullet train to Edinburgh.

offputting offsetting


Currently BAA are attempting to get a massive injunction against Airport Watch to try and stop them protesting at Heathrow.

However, I think for all the endless free publicity BAA have helped them get nothing is as clever as their Cheat Neutral spoof which has a big go at carbon offsetting schemes.

When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere.

Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.

Which pretty neatly skewers the notion that offsetting is a way to deal with your behavior. Funding (or better still taking part in) schemes and actions that are good for the environment just as part of your own every day life is pretty obviously a better idea than trying to offset certain portions of your carbon footprint with extra managed forestry.

In other news, did you know that the UK is planning to use offsetting as 70% of the reduction planned for meeting its long term carbon targets? And of course, those targets ignore emissions from aviation. More interesting still are the complex disagreements about how to measure aviation emissions in the UK, most figures quoted seem to be for flights departing the UK only.

Whatever your position, it’s pretty clear that you have to look beyond any headline figures and look to the finer detail to get any sense of what’s really going on. But also, for all that flying may have a major effect, it’s what you do year round that makes the difference. One carbon offset holiday a year does not a green life make.

Anyway, enough of this, time to sign up for £2.50 a month to remain single – though clearly by supporting a green agenda I may only have a limited amount of time to earn if Nuts magazine is to be believed.