Airmiles…

airmiles.jpg

I found this on a bottle of Pret Orange Juice.

In case you can’t see the image: ‘We believe air freighting fruit and veg is completely over the top. It’s unnecessary and with the exception of fresh basil leaves, we don’t do it.’ – I hope this attitude catches on.

Conferences.

Just received a nasty comment (anonymous) about unnecessary air travel to conferences. This exactly the point. I have not yet been to great conferences like reboot, SIME, leWeb, Picnic. But the few successful conferences I have attended just demonstrate the point that you can not replicate the experience via video conferencing. In fact, I need to attend more conferences. Meeting great people is too important.

As I have said before in this blog: I do not drive an SUV, we are not using much energy at home. But I will stop feeling guilty about travelling to meet great people.

Nearly forgotten: Turboprop planes

Even the smallest regional commuter planes now come as jet. I recently had the pleasure to fly with a Dash 8 Q300. Did you know that the fuel consumption per passenger kilometer is considerably lower than on a comparable jet plane?
Also, as these planes cruise at a lower altitude, I assume that the additional effect of emissions at high altitude will be lower.
Propeller planes have two disadvantages: Their maximum speed is only about 500 km /hr as opposed to 900 km / hr for jets. However, for anything under a distance of 1,5 hrs this amounts to only about 10% more travel time. The other disadvantage is the higher level of cabin noise. Guess what: with the latest in Noise cancelling headphones, this does not matter.

Feeling Guilty?

I just arrived in Greece for a conference. There is a saying that all religions are based on guilt, just with different holidays. Maybe this whole CO2 discussion is a new religion. The more you think about it, the more guilty you feel.

And while I am very serious about sustainability, trying to reduce my negative impact, I have decided to stop feeling guilty.
I will continue to drive cars. And I will continue to fly. And enjoy it.

There are plenty of things that I can improve. And I will focus on these.

Cars versus Homes…

If you spend a lot talking to people from other countries, you discover how odd certain things are in your own country.

Statistics always show that fewer Germans live in their own home, as in comparable nations. However, many visitors are amazed by the number of shiny new cars in front of rental appartment buildings.

Now this all may come from German’s inexplicable love of cars and a disintirest in owning the place they live in. This is what I thought until recently. That was when I thought about way the consecutive German governments have handled subsidies and taxes on cars and homes.

The reader from abroad may be excused for believing that governments should not discourage home ownership, and car ownership should at least not be subsidised as we all know about their external costs, that is the negative impact on others, be it noise, traffic or emissions.

However, in Germany things are different:

If you want to buy a home, you have to pay 3,5% tax on the value of the property, this will soon rise to 4,5%. You need to add another (in other markets unheard of) 1,5 % for notarisation and public registry. This 5-6 % cost for every transaction dramatically increases the switching cost. If an employee needs to move for a better job, she can easily lose a year’s salary on these costs. (So much for the often cited lack of flexibility of labour). In costs for maintaining a flat, it is well accepted practise, that if you buy a flat to let, it is much more tax efficient than buying it for yourself.

In cars however, everyone who gets a car as part of his salary package, will need to pay monthly income tax on 1% of it’s list price, so maybe 0,4%. This is usually way less as running your car costs you. In particular, as an employee, your monthly burden is totally independent from the price of gas. One of my friends recently bought a Cayenne with the small gas guzzling engine, because it would have been more expensive for him to pay the higher price of a more efficient diesel car.

The tax is on the list price and will always remain the same, no matter how old the car. You are therefore discouraged to drive a company car for longer than 3 years.
We can therefore call this tax break the German New Car Subsidy. I have several entrepreneur friends, who say that their tax adviser advised them to buy company cars in order to not have to give too much of their profit to the tax man.

In conclusion, it might be that the average German might behave in a totally rational way living in a rented flat and driving a huge car.