As Activists Protest Against Flying, Researchers Unveil New Technology

planestupid.jpgWith the UN’s latest meeting about climate change getting under way in Nairobi, environmental activists in London protested against EasyJet, an airline that offers short flights around Europe. About a half-dozen protestors handcuffed themselves to doorways at the company’s HQ, while another dozen hung banners from the roof. The building was shut down for about three hours.

“As warnings mount about the irreversible effects of climate change, it is totally out of order for Easyjet to be offering artificially cheap flights to destinations easily reachable by the train alternative, which is over 10 times less polluting,” said Andy Nash, a member of the protest coalition calling itself Plane Stupid.

At its Web site, Plane Stupid says recent research shows that 100,000 flights from Heathrow each year are to short-haul destinations that are easily reachable by the more sustainable train alternative. Plane Stupid opposes growth in aviation and the government’s tax breaks and plans for airport expansion.

Plane Stupid wants to see airport expansion plans scrapped, a tax on aviation fuel and plane tickets, and an end to short-haul flights.

Another part of the answer could be cleaner, greener technology. On Monday, a consortium of scientists from Cambridge and MIT unveiled their plans for a quiet, energy-efficient airliner that could be flying in less than 25 years. Besides reducing noise around airports, the airplane would be about as fuel-efficient as a Toyota Prius hybrid. Click here to watch a simulated flyby video. More details about the design are at the BBC Web site.

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Also, CheapFlights, a UK online ticket seller, listed 10 reasons to keep flying, aimed directly at the eco-protests. CheapFlights says: ticket taxes already raise more than enough revenue to offset aviation emissions, if it was used for that purpose… many poor countries’ economies would be hurt by fewer tourists… newer airplanes are more fuel-efficient… if ALL flying stopped today, global greenhouse emissions would be cut only by 3 percent… since buildings account for 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, improving efficiency there would have more impact.