Tony Newman, Croydon Labour’s Great Leader, could be heading for a Nobel Prize.
He might just save the planet, too.
Not previously known for his expertise in physics, climate science, or much else for that matter, Newman appears to have discovered the solution to Global Warming.
For Newman says that solar-powered aeroplanes could be the answer to ever-rising carbon emissions.
At least, we think he was seriously suggesting that Gatwick, London’s second airport, could soon be using environmentally friendly solar-fuelled planes to fly tens of thousands off on their package holidays in the sun.
Newman found himself in a bit of a corner last week, when his local Labour Party passed a motion saying that Croydon should not support a second runway at Gatwick. The Labour membership offered at least two good reasons: one, runway expansion would hasten the destruction of the planet through emitting more greenhouse gases, and two, it goes against Labour Party policy.
Trouble is, under Newman, the Labour-run council has been enthusiastic supporters of Gatwick expansion plans, on a basis of “sod the planet, let’s have a few more jobs in Croydon”.
The Croydon Central CLP motion was doubling embarrassing, since their local Labour MP, Sarah Jones, had worked for Gatwick before entering parliament and has continued to lobby for the extra runway since she entered parliament.
But as the CLP official who proposed the motion against Gatwick expansion said, “We can’t be afraid of speaking against our council leadership when they are wrong.”
Having lost the motion at the CLP, Newman’s response was to tweet about what a “really good debate” it had been – suggesting that he doesn’t intend to have council policy determined by “mere” Labour Party members – and writing “how can we in a truly sustainable way protect the thousands of airport jobs at stake for Croydon residents and help create the green jobs of the future”.
Newman has only ever created one job – his own.
He has never managed to justify or explain what form those “thousands of airport jobs” might take. It’s all a bit jam tomorrow, like the 5,000, then 6,000, more recently 7,000 jobs supposed to be created by Westfield Croydon, something else which Newman has enthusiastically endorsed. And with such success, too.
Intriguingly, though, in his tweet about the Gatwick motion, Newman did offer some suggestions for more sustainable transport modes: “expanded tram networks” (the Croydon tram network has failed to undergo any expansion since Newman became leader of the council), “growth of electric cars” (from the leader of a local authority that has just announced three – yes, three – recharging points across the whole borough), and, the real zinger this one, “solar powered flight” (sic).
If the arrival of solar-powered, passenger-carrying aeroplanes was imminent, bringing with them the prospect of air travel with low, or even zero, carbon emissions, it would be an astonishing breakthrough, a real game-changer and one which might just validate Newman’s continued, misguided support for runway expansion at Gatwick.
But, according to leading scientists, such a prospect remains the stuff of science fiction.
“Electric flight,” a report in the Washington Post noted, “may be among the technologies that are furthest from becoming practical.”
Furthest from becoming practical.
“So far, most of the electric planes that have achieved flight have only been able to accommodate one or two people, and it will likely be at least a decade or two before the technology will progress to the point that it’s commercially viable,” the Post reported.
It then went on to quote an exemplar of nominative determinism, David Zingg, a director of the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies, who said, “The big challenge is the batteries. You can imagine in 20 years you can have an aircraft the size of a 737 that’s electric — but you can’t be sure. That all depends on battery technology.”
For electric planes – the sort which Tony Newman tried to suggest is a practical reality to justify his support for Gatwick expansion – to become competitive, their power sources need to be able to store more energy per unit mass, otherwise, their speed and weight capacities will remain impractically low.
Solar Impulse had the wingspan of a Boeing 747, but managed to carry just one passenger, its pilot, and not the 600-plus which forms the typical payload of a Jumbo Jet.
Petro-fuel guzzling passenger jets, with all the planet-choking carbon emissions that go with them, seem likely to be with us for some time yet.
Clearly, though, Croydon councillor Newman knows better than the assembled experts of NASA, the aeroengineers at Boeing or Rolls-Royce and the world’s leading climate scientists.
Expect him, therefore, to ignore his CLP motion and for the council to contine its policy of supporting Gatwick expansion, based entirely around the ill-defined prospect that a larger airport, more than 15 miles from Croydon, might manage to generate some extra jobs.
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