It is impossible to deny that conventional oil sources will eventually run out and it is now becoming clearer that with current rates of consumption within the next 20-30 years, peak oil will have a great impact on the way that we travel. Fuel costs will soar as resources dwindle.
One of the current alternatives we have is biofuel which accounts for only approximately two per cent of the fuel available now and when it comes to the balance between crops that feed us and crops that produce biofuel, food will always be the priority.
The ‘Aviation demand forecasting paper’ on which the Airports Framework Consultation is based, makes predictions both to 2030 and to 2050 with only a minor reference to the influence of oil prices in the discussion about historical low cost flights: ‘DfT projects that this trend will come to an end in future as a result of sustained high oil prices, a slow down and eventual stop in the rate of reduction for non-fuel costs, and an increasing cost of carbon for the aviation sector’.
However it immediately goes on to state that ‘on the basis of these central projections and the absence of capacity constraints, the underlying trend of growth in UK air passenger demand is forecast to continue, rising from 219 million passengers per annum (mppa) in 2011 to… 480mppa by 2050’. This cannot be the case as peak oil will be a biggest constraint to travel and it is therefore unrealistic to assume that passenger numbers will more than double by 2050.
Other factors such as water usage, the risks of higher population density around Gatwick and its flight path are dwarfed by peak oil, but are still great causes of concern – and are also downplayed. Therefore the consultation should address this and include the possible impacts and scenarios of the range of predicted dates of peak oil in all its forecasts.
There is, in the meantime a possible short term solution to current high demand that the consultation wishes to address. This could be to spread additional flights between smaller UK airports which have scope for short term increased capacity and viable infrastructure.
This will secure a more evenly spread economic growth, and will also encourage local industries currently relying on aviation and wrongly predicting an increase in future trade, to become more diversified and encourage rural and community based businesses.
In the long term, a strategy including the acknowledgment of peak oil may also prove to be the pivotal point for a more sustainable future after oil.
for and on behalf Campaign to Protect Rural England, Sussex - Horsham and Crawley, Guyhurst Spinney, Thakeham