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Socialism Today 112 - October 2007

Real alternative transport options

IF ANYONE needs an example of sharp analysis of environmental issues they should look at Biofuels Profits, in Socialism Today, June 2007. In just two pages Manny Thain devastates all the shallow arguments about biofuels and shows why capitalists opt for this non-solution that, instead of saving the world, will make things worse.

With all this biofuel propaganda saying Ďletís keep dirty petrol engines but tinker with them to make them greenerí any debate on electric cars disappears. If we want clean road vehicles then electric cars are still our best bet. But this would need a level of investment no capitalist company can risk. Also, the powerful petrol/oil companies have too much to lose ó their existence (ie profits) is totally locked in to dirty petrol engines.

A switch to electric cars doesnít have to mean the same number of cars on the roads as before. For medium and long-distance journeys we could encourage people to go by train. Trains use up much less land to transport people (and goods) than cars on roads. At the height of the Railway Age there were 18,000 miles of track in this country. Less than 2,000 miles are now used, and a lot of the unused rail land is still there and could be reused for trains. Also, to make trains more appealing they would have to be a lot cheaper to use than cars ó that means big subsidies and being publicly owned (we all know how the private train companies give government subsidies to their shareholders instead of investing in the train network).

A good, extensive train system should be linked to a good local electric bus system (publicly owned for the same reason as above). Electric car pools at some railway stations would further cut the need for privately owned cars. People could hire these cars at cheap rates (if the cars are publicly owned).

What Iím talking about here is a truly integrated public transport system ó something that the capitalist media has conveniently forgotten about as they push for modified dirty petrol engines. Thatís because the investment and planning needed canít be done in the anarchy of the market place ó look at what happened to the rail system as soon as they let private companies run it. The only way we can get a clean and useful transport system is by the sort of planning only a socialist economy can give us. Itís true, to be green you have to be red.

Andy Hammond

Woodford, London


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