Putting a price on flight shame

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Welcome back to the Transport Brief.

Those who travelled by plane over the summer break doubtlessly found that the airport experience – testing at the best of times – had an added soupçon of complexity, as EU countries sought to shield themselves against the still rampant virus with a wall of bureaucracy.

In addition to the usual checks, passengers needed to show proof of vaccine, test, or recovery from the illness, and likely complete a “passenger locator form”, which required in-depth information on whereabouts and plans, as well as contact details should you or a fellow traveller turn out to be a vector of infection.

Brussels’ Charleroi airport sought to facilitate the process by providing travellers with coloured wristbands prior to entering the building, each indicating that specific documents had been checked, giving the impression of a sort of grim music festival.

But while the tangible experience of flying gains layers of complexity, the mental barrier to flying may also be growing.

There’s no way around it – at present, flights significantly increase your carbon footprint. Greta Thunberg famously won’t fly, opting instead for trains or, erm, sailboats.

So, what is the eco-conscious traveller to do? You could buy figure-hugging lycra, an aerodynamic helmet, and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses and bike across Europe, but it may be impractical for some.

From a climate perspective, trains are of course the green option. But for island-dwellers and others in hard-to-reach locations, flying provides unrivalled convenience.

It’s a conundrum – flying is cheap and offers the chance to explore Europe, but doing so exacerbates climate change, increasing the likelihood that much of Europe won’t be possible to explore in the future.

Ryanair to the rescue.

The Irish low-cost flyer has seemingly found a miraculous way to take the sting out of flying for the environment. Offsetting!

For a modest fee, Ryanair will offset your carbon footprint by investing in schemes including a wind farm in Turkey, a reforestation project in Portugal’s Algarve region, and the distribution of energy-efficient cooking stoves in Uganda.

So, can you now fly guilt-free, knowing that trees are being lovingly planted somewhere in your name?

If only it were that simple. Critics have already taken aim at the scheme, which they say amounts to “greenwashing”.

“Simply put, there will never be enough carbon sink capacities in natural ecosystems to compensate for the enormous scale of aviation emissions in recent years,” Klara Maria Schenk, a transport campaigner with Greenpeace, told EURACTIV.

“We need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and drastically reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Schemes like Ryanair’s are false solutions which will actually delay both of those imperative goals.”

Read the full article here.

A call for cabotage

FlixBus, a mobility technology company (‘bus company’ is passé), is expanding to two countries with vastly different terrains, yet a similar soft spot for strong-man leaders.

The German company will soon launch routes in Russia and Brazil, following its successful expansion to the United States (whether Trump also would have qualified as a strong-man leader is a decision for the reader).

The company is taking the plunge into Latin America thanks to Brazil’s decision to open its bus market for competition. Emboldened by that, FlixBus has renewed its call for all EU member states to take similar steps and liberalise their transport markets – at present, countries including Spain, Greece, Hungary, and Romania have refused to do so.

“We hope that the remaining [EU] countries such as Spain, Greece or Romania will soon recognise the potential of market opening to attract more passengers to sustainable collective travel,” André Schwämmlein, FlixBus founder and CEO, said in a statement.

In practice, the current situation means that foreign-owned bus companies may cross these country’s territories but cannot transport residents between cities within its national borders (known as ‘cabotage’).

While the Commission and Parliament are in favour of removing competition restrictions, the Council isn’t interested in having that discussion.

Calls for liberalisation were also strongly rejected by the European Transport Workers’ Federation, which said that opening transport markets leads to “undesirable, unfair competition between modes” which worsens working conditions. Read the full story below.

Does Tesla’s android dream of electric cars?

Electric car innovators and favoured green status symbol of the well-heeled, Tesla are moving beyond their automotive origins.

Eccentric billionaire Elon Musk announced earlier this month that the company will launch a humanoid robot next year, designed to carry out dangerous or boring work, Reuters reports.

Will we soon be in a future in which sighting a Tesla-bot buying groceries in the supermarket is as common as seeing a Tesla car on the street?

It seems unlikely – particularly as Tesla struggles to fix its AI issues, such as its driver-assistance system’s lethal defects.


A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

FlixBus denounces competition restrictions in Spain, Greece and Romania

German bus transport company FlixBus has renewed calls for countries including Spain, Greece, Hungary, and Romania to open their markets to competition from long-distance buses, arguing that doing so will lower prices for consumers and offer a greener option to traveling by car.

UK mulls easing post-Brexit immigration rules to end truck driver shortage

British ministers will consider easing post-Brexit immigration rules to help end a shortage of truck drivers amid mounting pressure from supermarket chains, The Times newspaper reported.

‘Game-changer’ for geothermal energy as UK plant unlocks vast supply of lithium

A geothermal power plant in the UK has discovered the highest concentration of lithium ever found in geothermal fluid, opening the door to a new business model for the renewable energy source.

Maersk orders eight large container ships to run on ‘carbon-neutral’ e-methanol

After announcing plans to operate a small carbon-neutral vessel by 2023, Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk has ordered eight large ocean-going container vessels capable of running on ‘green’ e-methanol. EURACTIV’s media partner, edie.net, reports.

Macron orders bike check U-turn to placate weary French

France’s transport ministry hit the brakes on an order for the nation’s army of motorbikers to get their machines tested every two years, after President Emmanuel Macron got wind of the plan.

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