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Thursday, 11th January, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Jan 07, 05:58 PM

Yesterday afternoon, newsrooms up and down the land received a Ryanair press release from proudly trumpeting its green credentials and claiming to have reduced its CO2 emissions by a wopping 50%. Oh really? An earlier version of the same press release, sent to Newsnight by mistake, tells a rather different story. We'll have the details.

But, it isn't just Ryanair that has been playing fast and loose with statistics.We'll be asking the education minister what's going on with the GCSE league tables.

Also, will the US Iraq troops surge make a difference? And more from Geek Week.

Comment on Thursday's programme here.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 10:35 PM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Stranded in Babylon wrote:

JP: "And why, when you can get him to put his clothes on, does the new James Bond have such a loyalty to Sony products?"

What's this, Jeremy: when he doesn't have his clothes on, he doesn't have that loyalty?

And how do you know?

Well done for exposing the truth about Ryanair.

  • 3.
  • At 11:23 PM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

I suspect that the current lack of success in GCSE examinations is due to the probability that many brighter potential parents stopped breeding both under Thatcher and then Major. There is no point having kids if you are working class and can't see a future for them, no jobs for life at reasonable wages anymore. The situation is likely to get worse in the future as there is no hope for the future under Blair or Brown either. Only this week at least a thousand decent jobs lost to overseas and immigrants reducing wages in all the manual jobs. I can't see Cameron doing any better.

  • 4.
  • At 12:37 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Pedant wrote:

Gordon, post 2, first sentence. Please choose your prepositions more carefully.

  • 5.
  • At 12:52 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

James Bond, contrary to the report, was never allowed to choose his own gadgets, cars or weapons.

You may remember a certain little scene in Dr. No. when James Bond is in M's office, where he his told to hand over his Bureta, that had jammed on him twice and hospitalised him before. Then, the armourer walks in, hand issues James Bond with a Walther PPK, (note I said issues him, rather than offers him the choice), as later in the scene, James is still trying to take the Bureta gun, which the character preferred using. Then, of course in "Goldfinger" when the Bentley that he again preferred was replaced by the DB7, according to Q was "M's Orders, 007!" So James Bond, as never got his own way with the gadgets, etc. because, I think we all know by now, that it is pretty much an the choice of the company who's providing the gadgets, paying the wages & the films budget.

  • 6.
  • At 01:13 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

The conclusion of the Ryanair segment seemed that their claims of carbon reduction were misleading, and the real problem was their low fares that are driving demand for cheap air travel.

The Prime Minister's press office issued a statement earlier this week to the effect that the PM was offsetting the carbon used on his flights to vacation, presumably by switching off a few lights at night etc.

Stern also draws attention to the concept of individuals taking personal actions (or inactions) to reduce their carbon footprint.

With the focus on the individual passenger established by the PM and Stern, lets revisit Ryanair. They have bought the latest Boeing aircraft, which are the most fuel efficient of all. They strive to achieve 100% load factors on all flights, and they try and operate a policy where aircraft are turned around quickly and kept flying for as long as engineering or human resources limitations allow. When the figure of 28% (instead of 50%) carbon reduction was calculated per passenger/kilometer, what load factor was assumed in the calculation?

Fuel is a major cost item for an operation like Ryanair, and they successfully protected themselves against last year's price increase surges by purchasing forward purchase contracts at lower prices.

What more can Ryanair do? They have abolished free handling of baggage, thus reducing personal waste by pasengers and the need for diesel tractors to ferry large amounts of luggage around the country's airports.

Apply all of these measures to BA, and the other carriers, and in terms of Carbon Reduction per passenger, Ryanair would win an environmental award. This is an example of a company that maximises profits by minimising fuel waste with efficient and new engines, passegner carbon per Km by high load factors, and other waste through internet sales and ticketing.

But in the end, this is not deemed green enough by the Green Taleban. They shriek at his low fares, causing more to fly, and therefore more carbon emitted. Is this Taliban advocating we go back to the days when small numbers of rich people were the only passengers?

How many people now fly to Italy and drive there, instead of driving the whole way down?

I agree with O Leary's invective towards the Minister. Govt are using the environmental case to impose taxes, period. Government can learn a lot from Ryanair, and they can set personal examples by selecting airlines that operate newer more efficient airplanes, rather than luxuriate in the first class cabin of BA which costs thousands of pounts of taxpayer funds, which coule be used to fund the planting of trees ets....

  • 7.
  • At 01:19 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • vikingar wrote:


"Meanwhile air traffic is a growing contributor to global warming. In 2002 the UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution predicted that air travel could account for nearly 75 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050" [1]

Explain that one away Mr Michael O'Leary of Ryan Air

... or should we say Ruining Air




On Paul Mason's "Geek Week" in Las Vegas:

I've thoroughly enjoyed Paul's broadcasts and tonight's was no exception.

In asking why consumer electronics companies seek global domination by tying their customers to proprietary and incompatible technologies he went to the heart of the matter, again.

Fortunately, for us "consumers" there is still enough choice to thwart the best laid plans of giant conglomerates. The rapid adoption of cheap communications technology and computers means that people really couldn't care less about "branded" items -- they just want to know that they do the job and, if necessary, allow them to connect, share and entertain with others.

I don't particularly care about the "Operating System" in a cell phone or a DVD player, but I do know what I want them to do.

In fact I'm browsing this blog and commenting using a nine year old Thinkpad laptop from IBM running Mepis (a variant of the free, open-source Linux operating system). Sexy? No. Does the job? Yus, indeed.

I was dying for Paul to jab in a few Paxmanesque "Oh, come on's" during the discussion with the Microsoft rep. though, especially when the bloke started evangelising Microsoft's commitment to inter-operability...

  • 9.
  • At 06:27 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

At 12:37 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
Pedant wrote:
Gordon, post 2, first sentence. Please choose your prepositions more carefully.

As a possible expert in grammar you can see from my post English is not my particular forte, I only got a grade 2 CSE and that was a miracle according to my English stream at secondary school. However I did do an apprenticeship as a HGV fitter and went to Tech where I passed both C & G part I and II motor vehicle technicians certificate with distinction. If I was a year younger its probable that I may never have got the chance to do the technicians course as Thatcher moved the goal posts for entry to the course, and also dumbed it down. I hated school but loved tech where my grade C O level physics ( even with poor English ) came in handy. Perhaps my imperfect command of English grammar is due to my broad Lancashire / Yorkshire border accent which makes Fred Dibnah's look pretty tame in comparison. If you need perfect English grammar to get anywhere these days perhaps I'm glad I don't have any kids like many more in my age range. You can spend all the money in the world on education but if people simply can't master the subject, money doesn't make any difference. I can't master Calculus at whatever cost but was very good at straightforward maths and trigonometry.

I agree in general wit Liam Coughlan's analysis and comments. Clearly from its perspective Ryan Air has been overly defensive and somewhat misleading. (Though UK journalists are even more careless with statistics than Michael O'Leary's PR people and, as the related Newsnight information graphic demonstrated, generally unable to present statistics in a useful manner.)

At any time in the last century we would have celebrated a development - such as low cost air travel - that increased the quality of life for ordinary people. And we would have celebrated a company that had helped deliver it. Now, in an age in which traditional morality has lost its power, we try to make up for this by creating sins against a new proto-god: the planet, which is just as difficult a concept to pin down as any traditional god.

Unlike Liam Coughlan, I don't believe we need personal examples set by Ministers or anyone else. There are no historical instances of personal _examples_ leading to major social, economic or political change. These have and will be achieved through insight (political, social, economic and scientific), organisation, and real leadership. Our current moralistic blame culture undermines all of these wonderful human traits.

  • 11.
  • At 10:30 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Edward Morris wrote:

When Micheal O'Leary stated the 50% reduction in emissions personally I took it as per plane. It was obvious to me this could not be overall due to the massive expansion of the airline. Surely this is a good thing?

I don't believe the goverments enviormental taxing will serve as a useful tool for reducing the enviormental impact of flying. A more heavily taxed industry will have slower growth and older (less effecient) planes will be used for extended periods. Maybe the goverment should listen to its own education department which recommends positive reinforcement? Tax breaks for airlines using new aircraft perhaps?

The one thing that bothers me about the 'attack' on aviation is there is far more pollution produced by international shipping yet this never hits the news. I can't help but feel it is another attack on a capatalist symbol by a socialist minority in the media rather than a balanced and fair argument.

Personally as an aerospace engineer and trainee pilot I applaude Micheal O'Leary. He is the only airline boss who has the balls to stand up and defend the industry.

  • 12.
  • At 10:55 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Pedant wrote:

Sorry, Gordon, I didn't mean to insult your abilities. It was just my dirty mind.

  • 13.
  • At 11:23 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • RJD wrote:

Will somebody please explain to me what they expect Michael O'Leary and Ryanair to do? Save the planet by folding up their business and take to planting trees?

Liam Coughlan at (6) very ably details how Ryanair's business efficiencies translate into good environmental efficiencies. Would that the same applied across all airlines.

Ryanair are an extremely successful company for one simple reason - they supply the public with what the public want. Columnists, commentators and journalists can snipe and jeer as much as they like but the public still vote with their online bookings and credit cards. When 150 people want to head off to Rome or Nice what are they going to do? All head of in their cars or catch trains or should they take the simple, quick and cheaper solution and fly there? Don’t blame Ryanair for supplying what people want.

I should declare an interest. I have 2 return flights booked with Ryanair as I speak. I made 6 return flights with them last year – never mind what I had with Easyjet.

I don’t know what planet Ian Pearson had just come from when he stated at the weekend that: “When it comes to climate change, Ryanair are not just the unacceptable face of capitalism, they are the irresponsible face of capitalism," I’m sure re-using and adapting a good quote seemed a good idea at the time – just a pity that he didn’t have any convincing argument to back it up when questioned live by reporters.

Governments, national and international, should waken up and properly address the issue of global warming and legislate in way that will directly cause carbon emissions to be reduced. Ryanair isn’t the government – it’s a business. They will use every commercial advantage open to them – it’s called “being successful.”

Last night's Jeremy 11/10 - brilliant debates with Hoshyar Zebari and Des Browne on Iraq and Lord Adonis. I was shocked to hear that English & Maths (GCSE) weren't compulsory subjects!

  • 15.
  • At 10:23 PM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Jonathan Steer wrote:

I agree completely with the Ryanair comments. A deal of the newsnight article seemed quite biased. As their "impartial referee" they had someone from a group with a name like "Green Air" which implies that it is some sort of environmentalist group (not that their is anything wrong with that, just not very impartial)and I found the evidence they found in the document (which had been erased) quite tenuous; easily faked or intentionally left. Also I don't think the government can take any high ground when it comes to statistic fixing and I'm sure from some standpoint the pollution has dropped by 50%.

This government seems to be introduce some very strange policies and make some unfortunate remarks when it comes to solving global warming.

Ryanair seems to be taking far better steps to reduce global warming than this government who just seem to think slapping a tax on will solve the problem.

  • 16.
  • At 11:32 PM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • vikingar wrote:

Ref RJD #13

The argument is similar about illegal drugs :)

It's pretty simple.

Other propulision & travel businesses have to be mindful of emissions, unlike virtually all airplanes manufacturers & airlines.

O'Leary is a non subtle, immodest & rather bullish example of someone (at present) very successful exploiting one of the last remaining ineffectively regulated enviroments - why?

What factors largely is that airlines are allowed to pollute without any significant penalty.

They pay more attention to noise than pollution

Ryan Air (Ruining Air) are exploiting (successfully) anomalies & in the travel market & environment & failings in global politics.

i.e. cheaper for two to fly from London to Barcelona (return) then saver ticket London to Glasgow.

Airplanes pollute & the growth in air travel is wholly unsustainable - expediential pollution - from an environmental stand point [1]

Have the volumes flying, have the numbers of planes increasing, but provide a significantly less means of a polluting propulsion *

* and me a centre right capitalist too :)




  • 17.
  • At 11:57 PM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • doc bob wrote:

So let's get this right. Rynair have been found to be Massaging the figures to make them selves look good over the last year or two? Rather like the govermanet over the last ten, then?

  • 18.
  • At 10:31 AM on 13 Jan 2007,
  • Gramsci's Gal wrote:

Gordon and Pedant - I lerv grammar but I just don't get it - what was the error?

Gordon thanks for your post about the bleak prospects for 'Mr and Mrs Ordinary Working Class' (as the media circus likes to refer to us), you make me feel sane, and now I know that you are also a Lancs/Yorks hybrid I'm not surprised at your sanity - I unfortunately am marooned in southern England amongst the greediest, most COMPETITIVE, narrow minded and selfish members of the Union (on average - no personal insults here) - help!!

Pedant - the issue goes much, much deeper. The whole point is that Britain, more than other developed countries, is so hung up on the manual versus mental issue. I think we need to recognise that INTELLIGENCE and CAPABILITY is a product of both the CNS and the ANS - not everyone has the dexterity and creative problem-solving aptitude for manual 'professions' and I can assure you that there is a black hole when it comes to 'common sense' and sheer practicality in universities - the sort of crazy unworkable decisions that go on in (public sector) 'management' especially in the NHS at this time are costing 'ordinary' people a fortune and it is because the decision-makers don't engage with the conrete reality / activity - that would be too lower class for them.

  • 19.
  • At 12:59 PM on 14 Jan 2007,
  • Hugh Waldock wrote:

GCSE´s were some of my best exams, I got 10 GCSE´s grade A-C 1A 4Bs and 5Cs including 2 languages 3 Sciences, Maths and 2xEnglish taking a broad range of academic GCSE´s never did me any harm. I think anyone can pass a GCSE it´s not difficult, they just need to be interested in the topics read newspapers watch TV articles and maybe open University programmes. I actually underachieved by my teachers´reckoning I only ever worked at school, never did homework.

Unfortunatly to my peril, I found out that you simply can´t do that with A levels and a degree, you need to work consistantly for them. I would hope the government have made GCSE´s harder since 1994 in order that it was not such a giant leap between the two levels. A level German and Music were very hard, and being a slacker I only just passed. Unfortunately on wanting to improve on my German grade at A level with a view to getting on the fast track teaching programme, I found it 10x easier than the German A level we did. Also music was harder in the 80´s where you had to do atonal dictation and things.

Becuase exams and degrees are getting ever more tasty to teenagers in Britian you simply fail to gain suffiecient background in a subject to achieve academic excellence in masters and PHD programmes. We understand the arguements but by in large not the origin of these arguements, in Germany and france and Greece people know a lot more facts but loose personal freedom of interpretation and creativity, which we have here. So is it old fashioned quality we want with very high technical ability, or people to fuel our creative economy, who are taught to question everything to experiment themselves and to make up their own minds as to how to do things, you choose!

  • 20.
  • At 12:02 AM on 15 Jan 2007,
  • Pedant wrote:

Oh, dear, I'll think twice before trying to be funny again, Gramsci's Gal. It was simply that I saw the dirty side of saying people had stopped breeding under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. 'Under' was the preposition in question. Missionary position. Sorry, sorry.

  • 21.
  • At 05:47 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • doc_bob wrote:

you seem to have mis-quoted me on your front page- the comment you have credited me with was made by someone else. please amend as these are not my views.

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