Paris Air is Lethal So Paris Transit is Free For Now
|March 25, 2014||Posted by Staff under Environmental|
A mixture of good weather and stubbornly bad public policy leaves French capital in grip of worst atmospheric pollution for seven years – with public transport running for free.
This 2014 excerpt of The Independent, Mar 14, is by John Lichfield.
A run of unseasonably warm, windless days and cold clear nights has clamped a lid of warm air over northern France. Under that lid, minuscule particles of pollution – partly generated by France’s long love-affair with the diesel-powered car – have accumulated to dangerous levels.
The level of official “pollution alert” – 80 microgrammes of tiny particles for every cubic metre of air – has been exceeded each day since Wednesday in 30 départements (counties) across northern France.
In an attempt to keep traffic to a minimum, all public transport has been declared free until Sunday in Paris, Rouen. and Caen. Even the Velib’, the Parisian help-yourself, short-term-hire bikes which fathered the Boris Bikes in London, have been declared free.
Is that sensible? In the midst of one of the most intense and prolonged pollution scares northern France has ever seen, is cycling still good for your health?
France is 60 per cent dependent on diesel cars. Exhaust gases are partly blamed for the fine particle pollution affecting Paris and several French cities. The French car giants, Renault and Peugeot-Citroen, invested heavily in diesel engines. Diesel fuel is taxed less heavily than petrol.
Fumes from diesel cars, as well as industrial emissions and agricultural fertilisers, are blamed for increasing the micro-particles in the French atmosphere to potentially dangerous levels.
According to on study, there are 40,000 premature or unnecessary deaths in France each year because of the high level of atmospheric pollution. The European Commission has brought a legal action against France in the European Court of Justice for its failure to respect EU anti-pollution laws.
Ed. Notes: Should politicians be permitted to impose economic policy? Or should they stick to what government really ought to be doing: defend rights. If the latter, government would not tax whoever it favors less, rather it would charge polluters for polluting at the amount of the damage they cause.
To avoid the charges, both producers and consumers would seek and find clean alternatives. And those alternatives would push the dirty engines out of the marketplace sooner if government quit taxing labor, the biggest cost in manufacturing, freeing that money up for R&D, production, and delivery.
Further, there’d be less need for engines – dirty or clean – if government were to recover the socially-generated value of land. Cars are huge land-users, especially in cities. Imagine if drivers had to pay for all the costs they impose, such as land lost to streets, parking lanes, parking lots, dealer lots, junk yards, gas stations, repair shops, part of the sites for parts stores, insurance offices, and cop shops. If drivers paid directly the costs that are feasible to do so in the price of fuel — where drivers could see them and feel them — then many would forgo driving for walking, pedaling, and riding transit.
Finally, if citizens received a share of the socially-generated value of land and resources, then they’d not be tied down by jobs. They could less, and at various hours, utterly destroying rush hour, which is when transportation spews forth most of its smog.
While France might have a feeble environmental movement, it does have in its intellectual heritage the reform of physiocracy. Those thinkers from the Age of Enlightenment recognized “natural law” (physiocracy) as a guiding principle and called for a single tax on land. If only today’s French thinkers and politicians would resurrect their past!