Ecoradical document #1:  Please feel free to copy and quote me without permission.







Anti-Concorde Speech

Given by robin d gill in 1976 (exact date misplaced)
at a Federal Aviation Administration Hearing (presiding official: Foster)


Mr. Gill?

MR. GILL: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ceruzzi, and Mr. Foster, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to present my views.


Mencius, an ancient Chinese sage, once told a king who kept a stable of fat, overfed horses in a time of general star­vation that he was feeding humans to beasts. I submit that the use of the wasteful Concorde is tantamount to feeding men to machines which is just as immoral.  According to the calculations of both the FAA and the British Airways, the Concorde requires two to three times more fuel per seat mile as conventional airplanes --- fuel which is subsequently bid away from agriculture, industry, heating, commuter travel, and more efficient airlines traffic.

Whether or not the prognosis of many scientists that increased travel in the delicate stratosphere will begin to eat into the ozone layer, causing an increase in skin cancer, is correct ‑‑- whether or not the discomfort expected from the increased noise level will be as serious as claimed --- any thinking man or woman can visualize the injustice of taking fuel from the average citizen alive today and tomorrow, in order that a few may travel from Paris to New York several hours faster.

The Concorde is a form of regressive taxation. If airlines subsidize it through increased fares for subsonic travelers, non‑wealthy passengers will be legally robbed by the well‑heeled, or, perhaps more appropriately, by the well-winged. And if the Concorde, without direct subsidy, takes off and becomes a fixed cost, or perceived necessity of the rich pleasure and business traveler, the burden will still be borne by the public in the form of higher prices for goods and services and lowered real income.


Let me clarify my assertion.

First, the Concorde's effect on prices is easily explained. If businessmen spend more for travel because prestige requires using the fastest plane around -‑‑ if they travel more instead of using telecommunications because they get there faster, costs will rise. Since it is doubtful that this increased expenditure will come out of the corporate profit pocket, you may expect the extra cost of the supersonic travel to come out of your pocket in the form of higher prices for the goods and services you buy.

Second, a regressive income distribution effect could result from the supersonic travel raising long-run costs of living for the wealthy. High consumption habits require the maintenance of great wealth.


Wealth is already so unevenly distributed in this country that the bottom three-quarters of the economic totem pole can hardly be expected to hold back on wage, salary, and consumption increases for the sake of the nation, much less the world, in these inflationary times. Without a reasonable degree of contentment, we will not find sufficient cooperation available to cope with scarcity and Its economic indicator, inflation. If the wealthy get hooked on the expensive Concorde habit, the situation will become only so much more difficult.


Perhaps the FAA is not as interested in economic injustice as in determining whether the environmental consequences deriving from the utilization of the Concorde are serious enough to warrant a refusal of the right to land. To the FAA, I ask -‑‑ Is the hastened‑depletion of a relatively unsubstitutable, unrenewable resource necessary for man's basic survival today a serious matter?


The British Airways and Air France will no doubt minimize the impact of the Concorde. We are told that the Concorde will utilize a small fraction of the total energy supply. We are told that the Concorde's wastes are almost insignificant in comparison to the Detroit gas-guzzlers' effect on the economy and ecology of the world. I agree, but with two slight reservations:

One -‑‑ two wrongs do not make a right. The gas‑guzzler habit. is deeply imbedded in the American physical and psychological infrastructure. We made a mistake and are painfully trying to work our way out. As we attempt to get Detroit and some of the American public to accept higher mpg automobiles through responsible political action, why should we permit a totally irresponsible quantum jump in fuel waste on the part of the airlines?

Two, fractional participation in a wrong doing does not absolve guilt, nor justify preferential treatment. Imagine the situation at Lake Erie, where we have hundreds of factories and municipalities polluting the water. Would it make sense to single out anyone and say ‑‑- since you contribute only one percent of the total pollution, go ahead and poison the lake? Just where would you stop --- with everyone?  And, if you were forced to discriminate between polluters for preferential treatment, you would no doubt favor the polluters producing the most essential products and services. In this case, the Concorde would come in last, or close to it.


The short and simple truth is that the Concorde was designed bassakwards. Instead of determining the correct velocity for optimum fuel efficiency, safety, and minimal environmental damage, speed was the engineers' independent variable around which the other factors were fitted. This is a classic case of excellent but misguided engineering. Four years ago, Spiro T. Agnew called those of us who disapproved of a government subsidy for the SST "No No Birds, with heads buried in the sand ignorantly fighting progress. I am not a "No No Bird." I am all for good technological development. If the government wanted to subsidize the development of a of long distance transport minimizing waste and other environmental impact, I would be the first to say "Yes."

But change which wastes irreplaceable resources which might better be used elsewhere is not progress but costly retrogression.

Congress took a bold and needed step forward when it cut off SST funds several years ago. Unfortunately, it did not also forbid foreign SST's from doing commerce with the U.S. It is unfair to the people of this country that their wise, unilateral forbearance is being taken advantage of by the British and French. If the FAA does not say "no" to the Concorde, I would hope that the U.S. Congress would do to the Concorde here what the Europeans did and still do to the Detroit guzzler over there -‑‑ tax the hell out of it. One thing is certain -‑‑ the FAA and Congress will do a great disservice to the American and the enlightened global interest if they allow the Concorde the use of out runways.


Last, but certainly not least, it is interesting to note that the proponents of the Concorde may point to only one advantage, the saving of time. Yet, can it be that a few hours of time are lost forever?  Is there a person alive today so brilliant, so Godlike, as to be incapable of learning something by reading or conversing with another passenger for several extra hours? I think not. But, I know one thing. Those three hours of time that one man "saves" will cost the equivalent of months or even years' supply of food for a starving person.


As far as I can see, the Concorde is an instrument of human cannibalism, with few redeeming qualities. It is not welcome here.

 Thank you.

 PRESIDING OFFICER FOSTER: Thank you, Mr. Gill.                  And thank you, good Reader!   - rdg





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