Aviation White Paper: Flight Path to the Future (or Disaster)?

This is a guest post by Cameron Leckie of ASPO Australia

On 16th December 2009 the Honourable Anthony Albanese MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, released the long awaited Aviation White Paper.

In what seems to be a recurring theme for the Australian Government, the declining availability of oil as a result of ‘peak oil’ has been conveniently forgotten. In a previous post, I stated that:

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there is no mention of peak oil nor its impacts in the Green Paper.

Most disappointingly and despite a number of submissions to the Green Paper (see Matt Mushalik's submission’s and my submission. A number of other submissions mentioned peak oil, but I can state:

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there is no mention of peak oil nor its impacts in the White Paper (nor the Green Paper before it).

The positives

It isn’t all bad. The Aviation White Paper clearly stipulates that biofuels are unlikely to replace crude oil derived aviation fuels:

The Australian Government recognises the importance of developing sustainable aviation fuels; however

At the present time there is great uncertainty over the availability, commercial viability and timing of introduction of these alternative aviation fuels.

Acknowledging that biofuels aren’t a silver bullet is a good thing. But the importance of ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ is only cited relation to reducing the carbon footprint of aircraft operations. Nowhere does it refer to the problem that there is unlikely to be enough aviation fuel to meet future demand even with the significant efficiency increases the aviation industry is aiming for. Surely ‘sustainability’ must consider the cost and availability of supply as well as the climate aspects. The people who write these documents are not stupid. To omit such an obvious detail must be a deliberate, and no doubt politically motivated, decision. For example, prior to drafting my submission, I contacted the Aviation White Paper staff and asked why peak oil was not in the Green Paper. The staff member who took my call was aware of peak oil and basically stated that the White Paper ‘couldn’t cover everything’!

There are some other wins of course. Metal cutlery will be allowed on aircraft and at aircraft facilities and passengers will be able to carry low risk items such as nail files and knitting needles onto aircraft. The Government clearly has the big issues in hand.


Why is peak oil not considered in planning for the future of the Australian aviation industry? Maybe this is why:

The aviation industry relies for its long-term viability on the strength of the Australian economy and economies around the world. This means that aviation, like all sectors of the economy, is vulnerable to economic downturns. When economies weaken, all aspects of the aviation business are affected.

Acknowledging peak oil means acknowledging that our economies will weaken, perhaps permanently. Our political system is not geared towards telling voters that current living standards can’t be maintained. So rather than acknowledge the problems that peak oil presents, it is ignored. The problem that this approach presents however is that it leaves us with very few options to respond to peak oil, meaning that the transition to a post peak oil economy and society is likely to be far harder than it necessarily should be. By failing to plan, the government is planning for the aviaition industry to fail.

Hi Phil, depressing but predictable. I am sure there is a "conspiracy" not just between the two "main" parties in Australia, but between all of the major governments of the world not to acknowledge PO in any way. That is why the Greens motion in the senate was voted down so comprehensively. The pollies like the current system, they know that one or other lot will be in power for about 10 years; and to have the gravy train derailed by a major realignment of domestic politics is for them untenable. Ergo Labor will not cooperate with Greens to push the ETS through etc etc.

It seems we must wait for these issues to hit us in the face so that some useless pollie can rush about and pretend to be leading. It is pathetic really.

As for aviation policy I think what they mean is they will do nothing. A second airport at Sydney will be a white elephant and they know it.

Re the second airport: We may have to use the budget just to raise the first airport above sea level (Cost=$1B?).

Concerning the effects of Peak Oil on aviation. Airlines will be more badly hit than the general economy. Simply raising the price of fuel is a big deal for airlines as the customers are highy price-sensitive and fuel probably makes up around 70% of the average Jetstar (or "low cost carrier") ticket.

It is not too late yet.

We could still make transparent airships with reflective semi-circle to concentrate sunlight onto stirling engines.
We would use recycled poly-ethelene terapthalate from plastic bottles. And steam at a constant 1 atmosphere for lift. (600grams lift/m3)

But how to convince the dumb bunnies?

Anyone with solutions is, by definition, on the fringes of society.

I am afraid that there is a pandemic of malnourished left hemispheres of the brain throughout humanity ever since the advent of agriculture.

I know this is a way out conspiracy theory but I read recently that "They" have generated the Global Warming thing as a cover for introducing
laws and regulations to cope with peak oil.

I know it sounds crazy, but it is the only thing that fits the picture !

Hence the all the worry about those AGW emails.

That politicians can have made such a world wide unspoken decision to
ignore and indeed suppress as far as possible any consideration of peak
oil, shows a capacity to
organise that I find hard to believe.
Never the less the big subject freeze out exists.
What we need is an expose of emails !

I think that the aviation industry,at least the international portion of it,is the least of our worries.Increased fuel prices will certainly do a lot of damage but global economic decline will do more.

Instead of spending money on bigger facilities for international tourists we would be better off planning for sustainable industries.There are at least 3 capital city airports which will be inundated by rising sea levels - Brisbane,Sydney and Hobart.Such prime tourist destinations as Cairns and the Gold Coast are not going to be too desireable with salt water in the streets at high tide.

Instead of planning to wind down these sorts of places the current oligarchy will attempt to do a King Canute in their usual far sighted fashion.

Well,good on Cameron Leckie for having a go but it is like trying to push shit up a very steep hill with this current mob of dead heads.

Something I found very disturbing recently was viewing Tony Abbott showing his amazing ignorance of even the meaning of the term "peak oil" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCiHFyLIfu8 Perhaps this youtube clip is worth a full story by TOD and could be used to provoke Tony Abbott into some dialogue on the issue (either directly or via other politicians like The Greens)?