Could a bigger airport actually make a greener Bristol?
Update 10:45 Wed night: What a night. After an hour of public speeches covering the whole waterfront, councillors decided to kick the airport decision upstairs. In council speak, the meeting will now be decided by North Somerset's "Planning and Regulatory Committee", I'm told within a month, but we will see.
Undeterred, they still had their debate, for another two hours. Everything from the number of taxis through Barrow Gurney to the international standards on climate change was discussed. In fact, this post below turns out to be not a bad guide to the argument; both my article and the comments below it.
Opposing councillors said approving the airport would make a mockery of the council's "core strategy" on sustainability. Those who backed the expansion argued that international emissions were not a subject for local councillors, and anyway "if people don't fly from Bristol, they will just drive to another airport".
Then they voted, 6-3 in favour of the Airport. This, of course, is just a recommendation. But a wily councillor who voted against the proposals and knows the council well told me afterwards that the final committee will almost certainly rubber stamp tonight's decision.
The Airport's expansion plans have cleared customs, and are on the runway waiting for the final green light. Thoughts please? Form an orderly queue now...
Lots more on BBC Radio Bristol with Steve LeFevre between 06:00 and 09:00 on Thursday.
Update 16:30 Wednesday Right, off to the big meeting now. To keep up with what happens, follow my twitterfeed here. I'll post some pictures, and the result when we get it.
Update 16:00 Wednesday Wow! This post has prompted a massive debate. And I hear North Somerset Council has laid on overflow rooms for the crowds they're expecting. Should be interesting...
Bristol is the capital of organic food. Of sustainable travel. It's a cycling city, with a funky digital, creative, graffiti zeitgeist.
We are so, like, now.
So the city wants to be officially Britain's Green Capital. And into this chilled out party hurtles a jet-powered neighbour, intent on drowning the party with its noisy planes. At least, that's how many in the city view Bristol International Airport's expansion plans.
Their plans are massive, but here's the basics of them:
£150m buys the airport a new terminal twice the size of today's building and a five storey car-park. Passenger numbers sky-rocket from 6m a year now to 10m a year by 2020.
Already Bristol's councillors have lodged their "noisy neighbour" complaint. Full council passed a motion opposing the expansion, asking how this high octane growth would help the city cut its carbon footprint. They are not alone. 5,417 people have officially objected on North Somerset's planning portal, and the "Stop Bristol Airport Expansion" campaign is flying. As it were.
But what if the airport is the real green deal here?
Before you choke on your muesli, consider this.
First, BIA is not the only place to fly from. You may have noticed Britain has other airports, and Heathrow and Birmingham are not exactly a long haul from here. So if people can't fly from Bristol, they won't fly less, they will simply drive more.
Heathrow's traffic jams are already legendary, but have you seen the ones in the air? Stacked high above the runway, planes are held by air traffic control in organised aerial gridlock.
"Regional airports are so obviously the green choice," says Richard Roller, a local businessman. Mr Roller makes ground power units for the aviation industry in Weston-super-Mare, exporting to the US, to Kazakstan, to the world. "Flying into Bristol is so easy, it's the only reason we're still here. But when you see how much fuel planes use waiting to land at Heathrow, it's obviously much greener too."
Second, jet engines are more efficient than car engines. Yes, that's right. The famously green Toyota Prius uses 4.3 litres of fuel to go 100km. Go the same distance on a new Airbus A380 with its Filton-designed wings, and each passenger uses just 2.9 litres. There is an obvious flaw in this, of course; planes go way further than we drive cars. But it's worth considering next time you decide to drive to that Spanish campsite, rather than flying and "wrecking the planet". The BBC's "Ethical Man" has been doing loads more sums on this, if it interests you.
The final argument for a bigger airport is slighty different. It's honesty. You see, as I revealed six months ago, passenger numbers can - and will - grow anyway. There is no new runway in these plans. They just want to make the growing crowds at the check-in more comfortable, sort out the parking and the approach roads.
So maybe the airports opponents don't hold all the green cards. And when the airport's website ran an online petition on their plans some 1,913 supported them.
Now I'm being deliberately provocative here, of course. If Bristol gets more comfortable and convenient, more of us will fly from there. That cheap weekend in Barcelona will be even more tempting about now, when the Spanish sun is up and Dundry is still frosty. If all airports were crushed, noisy cattle markets we would only fly the vital trips. And yes, because planes fly at high altitude, their emissions do more damage to our carbon calculations than earthbound cars.
Environmentalists have a one word response to the suggestion that new transport infrastructure eases congestion: M25. Remember the promises that a new orbital motorway would clear the jams from the south east's roads? Exactly.
Recently I met the aviation minister, Ian Lucas MP. I asked him how his industry helped the government meet its targets for cutting CO2 and climate change. His answer is relevant to this debate too, I think. "You're not going to stop people flying," he said, "and they will want to fly more. The challenge is how to meet that aspiration in as low carbon a way as possible."
He was talking about modern fuel-efficient aircraft, but he might also have meant local airports like BIA.
Right - over to you now for the next 24 hours, then councillors will have the last word in Weston.