Friday, July 21, 2006

Yesterday's "Times"

Matthew Parris argued that Israel needs to go "the extra mile" to settle the argument - that is, offer more than they have to for the sake of goodwill. I suspect that Israel would argue that, by voluntarily withdrawing from Palestinian territory earlier in the year, and offering more territory, it had already done that. It's also interesting that he, a non-Christian (although one who has shown a clear understanding of the nature of the Christian message), should be arguing that a non-Christian state should operate according to a Christian ethical standard.

Their weather correspondent argued that an immediate carbon tax on aviation ought to be introduced, because aviation fuel isn't taxed. This is being repeated so often, it has almost become a mantra. In the UK, Airline Passenger Duty is already imposed - there is no comparable tax on railway or sea travel. And yet, flying is still generally cheaper than surface transport. Furthermore, whilst rail attracts huge subsidies, the airlines raise their own capital and have to operate profitably. British Airways is approaching an operating margin of 10% - although this is high, and comparable with the low-cost airlines, the historical margins of airlines are much lower. The bottom line is that any extra tax can't come from airline profits, because they don't have enough. It would be passed straight onto the consumer.

This isn't arguing against such a tax, which may be an appropriate response to increasing carbon emissions. Some airlines already want to be part of the emissions trading schemes. But it is somewhat absurd that airlines are being penalised for their commercial success when so many people long for viable surface alternatives.