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Captain Carbon says...

Jun 16

Written by:
16/06/2008 16:39  RssIcon

 Climate Set back as the World's First “Carbon Neutral” Airline Goes Bust

 Oh no! In a disastrous set back for the fight against climate change, Silverjet, which dubbed itself last year the world's first Carbon Neutral Airline, has gone bust. This can only mean a return to the nightmare of carbon-intensive air travel!


Er, well...actually...Silverjet will not be missed (although spare a thought for staff who turned up for work to find the doors locked). Had Silverjet patented a science fiction carbon-free flight technology then its untimely demise would be cause for wailing and gnashing of teeth. But Silverjet had not; rather, the Carbon Neutral tag was one of the most shameless pieces of greenwash in what is (let's face it) a crowded market.


Silverjet was founded only 16 months ago in headier economic times, offering business class only flights between the UK and New York for £999 a pop – plus a chauffeur driven service to the airport. Last year Ethical Consumer's carbon offsets guide reported on a press release on the Carbon Neutral Company 's website titled “Silverjet Awarded Carbon Neutral Airline of the Year Award 2007.” Included in your £999 flight was that get-out-of-jail-free card of the twenty first century, a carbon offset.


You'd be forgiven for not having heard of the Carbon Neutral Airline of the Year Award, because, at least as far as Captain Carbon can tell, it doesn't exist. A Google search will turn up said press release and various puff pieces it spawned. But the carbon offset industry is nothing if it is not adept at conjuring something out of nothing. Imaginary commodities are after all its bread and butter.


According to Silverjet, “If the industry was to simply charge its customers 90 pence for each hour they fly on average, then they could neutralise the carbon pollution created by the aviation industry.” If only climate activists had realised it was so simple! It's that kind of gordian-knot-splicing thinking in which the turbo-charged capitalism excells. Think about it. Silverjet has won a none-existent competition through re-selling an imaginary commodity and in so doing solves perhaps the most intractable problem of carbon emissions!


Unfortunately for founder and CEO Lawrence Hunt (and his now unemployed staff) he wasn't so good at conjuring up profits, or, with other sorts of imaginary commodities wreaking havoc throughout the global financial system, capital, either. Silverjet never made a profit and failed to secure investment capital to keep going, caught between the credit crunch and spiralling fuel costs.


Silverjet was the last of three business-class only operators flying between London and the U.S. after the bankruptcy of Eos Airlines and MAXjet Airways Inc.


According to Bloomberg: “More than a dozen carriers have collapsed in the past six months after the price of oil jumped 41 percent. The industry may report $40 billion in combined losses this year, more than three times the level after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to independent airline analyst Chris Tarry.”


The emergence of these business class airlines mirrors the rise of private jets and the unbelievably irresponsible rise of domestic flights – including daily north-south commuting by plane. Ethical Consumer recently took the step of reflecting this in our rating system. We regularly review the ratings as new developments, understanding and best practice emerge. Previously airlines received a mark under the climate change category. We've revised this now so that airlines involved in particularly carbon intensive operations - private jets and, until they all went bust, business-class only travel – receive a worse mark than other carriers. There's an argument that, while carbon-intensive it may be, there is no practical alternative for most people than to fly to Australia or Asia. You just can't make the same argument for a surfing weekend in Newquay, flying from Manchester to London everyday, or deciding to have a jet to yourself.




2 comment(s) so far...

Re: Captain Carbon says...

"there is no practical alternative for most people than to fly to Australia or Asia" right - what about dont go. your saying holiday is more important than saving the planet!

By greeniac on   25/06/2008 08:34

Re: Captain Carbon says...

So what's so wrong with an airline donating money to a good cause? Hardly reason to celebrate companies going bust and people losing their jobs. the focus of flying just gives ammo to enemies of the green movement who want to make out its all about being told what to do. We should stick to arguments we can win, like energy.

By Ampersand on   01/07/2008 21:19


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