The ‘Bad Boys’ of the Private Sector turn into Corona-Angels

In light of the Corona virus, businesses that are usually on the top of politicians’ lists to be taxed, regulated, nationalized, or shut down are demonstrating how much value they produce for society.

No need for bailouts, just lower flight taxes

In an attempt to contain coronavirus, governments all across the world have imposed various travel restrictions. As it usually happens, the road to hell is paved with noble goals and good intentions. The airline industry that has made travelling between continents and cities more pleasant, time-efficient and affordable will, unfortunately, be hugely affected by these travel bans. 

In fact, the potential damage may end up being so extensive that some legacy and low-cost airlines will cease to exist and cheap tickets will only be a sweet memory from the past. This would be disastrous for consumer choice.

Not all is lost though. There are a number of ways in which governments can help the industry during these trying times. Bailouts usually come first to mind.  Airlines for America, the industry association for various U.S. airlines, has already asked for 50bn USD in support. Many more are likely going to follow. 

As the government is partly responsible for the upcoming downfall of airlines, it is understandable why airlines would seek its assistance in mitigating the damage. However, every bailout is a redistribution of taxpayers’ money without their consent. Do all taxpayers want their money to be used for saving bankrupt airlines? Have all of them travelled by plane at all? Or maybe they are more concerned with the threats posed by the pandemic and would prefer the government to channel their money into healthcare services? Probably the latter would make more sense given the current situation.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, consumers and passengers are going to be very happy to travel again. And in order to catapult the demand, governments should reduce taxes imposed on the tickets we buy. Not only will this help boost an industry without the need for bailouts, but it will also allow passengers of every income group to visit their families, attend meetings, and travel without any additional barriers. 

Every tax imposed on airlines makes the price of flying higher for consumers. Never believe it when governments say they are taxing airlines: it’s actually us consumers who foot the bill. And once the pandemic is over, our subjective value of travelling without limits will increase thus making us appreciate the miracles of air travel way more. We will want to fly more not less. Incentives in the form of lower prices – thanks to lower taxes- will be good news for every consumer.

We’ve started taking flying and travelling as such for granted, and the globalisation that was fostered by it has come under fire in light of the coronavirus outbreak. 

But these temporary bad times shouldn’t make us forget about the possibilities of air travel. Many of us are quarantining these days and feel trapped inside the four walls of our apartments. Skimming through our pictures from past travels and daydreaming about being able to visit more places makes it more bearable. 

When all this ends, we will want governments to ensure we can fly just like before, and as cheaply as possible. No need for bailouts, just lower flight taxes. This will make our post-coronavirus reality so much more enjoyable and guarantee a strong position for airlines for years to come.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at

Flight shaming won’t save the planet

The so-called flygskamers, or ‘flight-shamers’, are everywhere. The flight shaming movement initially started in Sweden, then proceeded to spread its wings (ironically, at first) across Europe.

Some environmentalists are spearheading a social movement seeking to phase out humankind’s most innovative mode of transportation. Their strategy involves shaming those who travel by air into submission by overplaying the impact of aeroplanes on the environment.

Here are some verifiable facts to consider when it comes to global aviation:

80 per cent of aviation CO2 emissions are emitted from flights of over 1,500 kilometres, for which there are no alternatives but taking a plane.

Only two per cent of all human-induced carbon dioxide is emitted as a result of global aviation.

Modern planes are 80 per cent more fuel-efficient than those in use in the 1960s.

1.5 million people in Africa rely on fresh produce delivery by air from the UK alone.

Aviation carries 35 per cent of the value of global shipments, but only 0.5 per cent of the volume. This means that shipments are time-sensitive or very valuable.

The flight-shamers insist that buses and trains can replace their current means of transport. Discounting the substantial additional opportunity costs of these alternatives, let’s consider some more recent facts relating to train travel. Whoever is holding up nationalised rail as an alternative to rail transport should know this:

Just recently, employees of SNCF (France’s state-owned railway company) have been on strike again. Only 1-3 high-speed trains were running during that time, and almost no regional trains ran. The strike was unlimited and unpredictable. People didn’t know if they would be able to come home for the holidays.

Since 1947, there hasn’t been a single year without rail strikes.

Three months of strikes in 2018 cost €790 million, which is higher than its 2017 profits.

Their tickets aren’t cheap. Affordable ones are subsidised by taxpayers (and even by you as a visitor with every purchase you make) so real prices are much higher.

SNCF is €50bn in debt and runs a deficit of over half a billion each year.

There were 400,000 cancellations in 2018.

One-third of intercity and international trains are structurally delayed.

SNCF has paid €20 million in delay fees to rail station operators.

All this applies to an operator that is challenged not by competition but only by its own self-entitlement.

For the Berlin to London, which is a route all sane people travel by plane, a train journey would be excruciating, both on the price and the time. The existing tunnel is London to Lille (1h22). Lille to Berlin with current high-speed connections (SNCF and DB) takes between 11 and 14 hours (factor in SNCF strikes and 25 per cent of DB’s ICE trains being delayed and the timings would be even worse).

That means you’ll end up with four connections and about half a day of travel. That’s only if you’re lucky, which as a regular user of all of these services, I can say with confidence you probably won’t be.

But what about the environment? As ever, technology is leading the way to a brighter, greener future, with the aviation industry developing new and better technologies to clean up air travel.

Airbus’s new A321XLR, for example, has 30 per cent less kerosene consumption per passenger than the previous generation of planes, while adding 30 per cent more range than the current A321neo model.

That should be to nobody’s surprise. Neither the aviation sector and individual airlines have any incentive to use more kerosene than they need to.

The temerity that these campaigners must have to suggest to older people, in particular, that they ought to go back to the old days of disgusting, tiring and nerve-wrenching long train travels is quite rich. What’s worse, however, is distorting the reality of both global aviation and its alternatives.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at

Uber seeks injunction against City of Surrey

Uber has asked the B.C. Supreme Court to issue an injunction after Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum promised bylaw officers would fine drivers and the company for operating in the city without a business licence.

Over the weekend, the city issued 18 warnings to drivers and $1,000 in fines to Uber, and the mayor said on Monday that the grace period was over and drivers would be fined, along with the company. Uber’s head of western Canada, Michael van Hemmen, said in an emailed statement that he believes the tickets are illegal.

“The city’s actions are unfair to local residents who want to earn money and support their families. It is also unfair to those who need a safe, affordable and reliable ride,” said van Hemmen.

The requested injunction would prevent the city from fining, ticketing or otherwise sanctioning the company and its drivers for working in Surrey, pending a court hearing. Uber is also asking that the city pay the company’s court costs.

“Our preference is to work collaboratively with municipalities, and we are doing so across the region,” van Hemmen said. “However, Uber must stand up when drivers and riders are being bullied and intimidated, especially when the province has confirmed drivers have the legal right to use Uber’s app, and to earn money driving with the app.”

McCallum told reporters that he wasn’t concerned about the threat of legal action, because the city receives notices about legal action regarding bylaws on a regular basis.

“We feel that the ride hailing, or especially Uber, is not abiding by our bylaws. It does not have a business licence at this time to operate in Surrey,” McCallum said. “The same as any commercial business or any retail outlet we expect that all businesses, including commercial ride hailing companies, will respect our bylaws and will get a business licence.”

He said the city’s lawyers have told him Surrey has the legal right to fine Uber and its drivers because they don’t have a business licence.

“So, we will carry it forward,” he said.

Uber has not shied away from legal fights with other jurisdictions, such as New York City, the State of California and Sokie, Illinois.

McCallum invited Uber to apply for the same kind of business licence a taxi company must obtain to operate — taxi companies pay $161.75 a year for a Surrey business licence, plus $441.50 for each taxi — but did not say whether Uber or any other ride-hailing company would be approved if it did apply.

Uber said because the city does not have a specific business licence for ride hailing, like the ones in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Delta or the Tri-Cities, there is no licence for which to apply.

“According to provincial law, ride sharing is not taxi,” it said in a previous statement.

Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said no municipality has the authority to block ride hailing, but they do have the ability to regulate the service through business licensing.

“Surrey has obviously gone ahead and said that the companies need a business licence, and they have not issued business licenses, and so that’s really a matter of between, I would suggest, Surrey and the companies,” Trevena said.

The type of licence the municipality requires is up to them — it does not have to be a ride-hailing business licence.

“We’ve set the framework, we’ve created these legislative amendments and made sure that we’ve got the framework in place, including the ability for municipalities to have business license or to use business as they so wish,” Trevena said. “But, it’s not up to us to say what sort of business licence the municipality is issuing and isn’t issuing.”

She also said how a city enforces its business licensing and bylaws is up to them.

When asked what would happen if a municipality did try and block ride hailing in any way, Trevena said it will be up to those who have an issue with a municipality to take legal action. However the province could come up with penalties if necessary.

Uber said although it won’t get a business licence, its app will continue to be available to those who want a ride within its Surrey service area, which includes a large swath of the city.

Uber driver Aloys Mbella, who lives in Surrey, said he had no trouble getting fares on Tuesday morning, having picked up four people within his first hour on the road. As he drove through the city, Mbella said he was not concerned about being fined and would continue to pick up customers in Surrey.

Uber said it supports an inter-municipal business licence, which is being developed by TransLink. It’s expected to be drafted within the next week, at which time it will go to Metro Vancouver municipal councils for consideration. Participation in the regional licence will be voluntary.

McCallum said he is waiting for the inter-municipal licence to be considered by the Mayors’ Council before taking action in his own city. He said he supports the process, even though he was the only mayor to vote against the licensing scheme at a Mayors’ Council meeting in December.

Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke, who left McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition last year and has since formed Surrey Connect, said it’s unfortunate that fines are being issued. She said the city should work with the taxi industry and Uber to make things work “in a civilized way.”

“I think Uber’s got its back up against the wall and they have to take legal action because there’s a possibility that Surrey is absolutely wrong in what they’re doing,” she said. “This is what’s going to happen when cooler heads can’t prevail and people can’t act maturely about what is going to be happening in our province.”

Coun. Linda Annis, who is a Surrey First councillor, said making bylaw officers write tickets to Uber drivers is a bad use of resources, and she is upset and disappointed by what is happening in Surrey.

“I lay it at the feet of the mayor. Certainly the bylaw officers, this is not an initiative that they would take on their own, and they obviously received instruction from somewhere, and that’s just not acceptable to me,” she said.

When it comes to legal challenges, Annis echoed Locke’s comments that they’d be better off working together.

“I think when you’re starting any relationship, it’s really, really bad to be talking about lawsuits,” she said. “We have to work collaboratively with our ride-hailing partners. It’s a service we need to have in Surrey. We need to start off in a collaborative way, not a confrontational manner.”

The Consumer Choice Center, an international advocacy group, derided Surrey’s bylaw enforcement against Uber drivers, and called it taxi industry “cronyism.”

“Going after Uber drivers does nothing but hurt consumer choice and put public safety at risk,” said the centre’s Toronto-based North American affairs manager, David Clement.

“We know from peer reviewed research that for every month ride sharing is legal, impaired driving arrests decline by 0.8 per cent. Mayor McCallum may say that he is trying to protect community safety, but the reality is that he is just trying to protect the taxi industry from competition.”

The issue of ride-hailing business licences, and whether Surrey will participate in the regional inter-municipal business licence, is expected to be discussed at the Feb. 10 council meeting.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at

In your face: Planes are getting more efficient but passenger taxes drive airlines out of business

Range increases of new jetliners

The UK government has apparently just saved the regional carrier Flybe from bankruptcy by delaying over a hundred million pounds of passenger departure tax payments to the UK government and suggesting to lower this tax altogether in the future. Saving a local airline causes these days an outcry not because of government interventionism but the general anti-flying segment also known as flight shaming. Unfortunately the UK government did not move away from their plan to increase the APD for long haul flights by April 1st. 

Let’s look at what’s currently happening in the industry when it comes to long haul flights: Following aviation news regularly one can observe a real arms race in the last couple of years on which airline currently holds the record on the world’s longest flight. 

Just a few years ago Qatar Airways was the record holder with their Doha-Auckland flight on the newly delivered Airbus A350. 

Now Singapore to New York ranks as the world’s longest flight (and yes, there are different geeky ways to determine what “long” means but no need to dig into this here). 

Now one can just label these new ultra long haul routes as PR stunts of airlines or the manifestation of big egos of airline executives. But the actual marvel behind this is that flights are getting more and more efficient. This allows airlines to schedule longer flights and spare passengers hours of layovers at random airports on the way home. 

And while thousands of private jets will descend into Switzerland for some collective flight shaming at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it is important to point out that flying is getting more efficient. Consumers have more and more choices and additional direct flights allow them to travel faster.  

Those demanding less flying and higher taxation on flights are neglecting the fact of ongoing efficiency gains in the aviation industry and at the same time de-democratize flying by making it less affordable for the average consumer. 

Conventional jetliners becoming more fuel efficient is an ongoing development and does not need any policy input as it is in the intrinsic interest of airlines to offer more competitive routes and ticket prices. 

The next step would be to allow a regulatory framework for supersonic passenger flights. We wrote a paper on this last year. 

Why Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo could be good news for consumers

In May 2019 the global e-commerce powerhouse Amazon invested roughly 500 million USD in the British food delivery service Deliveroo leading to a 16% equity stake in that company. The British competition watchdog Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued a statement asking both companies for concessions (usually agreeing to sell off some businesses or leave some markets to reduce market shares) in order to see the deal green-lighted. While the battle for leadership in the global ready-to-eat meal delivery market has been on for years, Amazon’s (re-)entry in this market might be excellent news for consumers.

Right now Deliveroo is mainly active in European markets (though it left one of its main markets, Germany, earlier this year due to labor disputes) and currently expands into Asian countries. It competes with similar companies such as UberEats or Delivery Hero. As an early adopter of such services I have tried most of them in various European cities. One common weakness of their offering can be seen in their predominating business attitude of focussing more on acquiring and keeping more restaurants on their platform instead of servicing their (ordering end-) customers.

Some of the poor customer experience can be seen in the lack of standardized (or non leaking) packaging and usually little to no help in case of missing items, cold food, or massive delays. Customer service usually tells you that they are merely the broker and are not liable for the restaurants faults. And while the platforms usually refund you for missing food, this is usually not what you want when you are very hungry on a Friday evening and need to rush to the movies (such a situation and a no-show of my pizza was when I deleted Deliveroo from my phone).

Amazon tried restaurants once before and failed in the UK market. They might have been too early or were not able to get sufficient market shares quickly enough. Their new and very pricey attempt to get back into the European ready-to-eat meal delivery should be applauded by consumers:

Amazon is one of the most customer-centric companies out there. The consumer is usually always right and Amazon is there to make it right. Amazon’s grocery service Fresh is a great example on how to constantly provide customer service on a high level.

That consumer focus is currently lacking in the food delivery sector. A strategic investment in food delivery companies with combined know how transfer and keeping the importance of the end user in mind could really bring food deliveries to the next level. Great for everyone who does not have time to cook a meal every evening!

Apparently the CMA sees this differently. The BBC reports:

But, on Friday, the regulator said Amazon had failed to deal with "initial concerns that their investment in Deliveroo could be bad for customers, restaurants and grocers".
The CMA is worried that Amazon's plans to invest in Deliveroo could stop it from launching a rival company, which would increase competition and potentially lower prices for consumers.

If competition watchdogs now stop any attempt of horizontal integration of companies because they are worried that this would stop the creation of new companies we would open the floodgates of antitrust litigation.

“There are relatively few players in these markets, so we’re concerned that Amazon having this kind of influence over Deliveroo could dampen the emerging competition between the two businesses.”

CMA executive director Andrea Gomes da Silva

Let’s also keep in mind that the meal delivery market is losing hundreds of millions a year in the UK alone. The CMA stopping consolidation of the market will also prevent this sector to turn profitable in the near future – and that could jeopardize the success of this entire industry in Europe.


I really hope that the CMA will listen to consumers that actually use food delivery services and don’t just stick to the old antitrust textbook of an analogue world or the pressure from brick and mortar retailers who might have missed the train of going digital and convenient. A dash of Amazon’s customer-centricity might make me reinstall Deliveroo and use it for good.

Germany’s Uber ban is bad for consumers and the environment

Today a court in Frankfurt effectively banned Uber in all of Germany. The company Taxi Deutschland, a licensed taxi app, went to court arguing that Uber requires a license. The court agreed with Taxi Deutschland’s interpretation of the legal situation.

For the last couple of years, Uber was able to operate in Germany by working with subcontractors that complied with the German rental car and chauffeur services regulations. That law also mandates the driver to drive back to a dispatching station after every single ride. This is of course not just expensive but also terrible for the environment and just adds additional cars to already congested roads. The plaintiff was able to prove that many Uber drivers do not drive back empty to their dispatching station but keep picking up passengers. While this is good news for the environment, roads, and passengers, it is bad legal news for Uber. Policy makers should realize that this is an outdated regulation and update it according to the realities of many consumers preferring Ubers to licensed taxis.

Uber entered the German market in 2013 and for the last six years politicians kept complaining about Uber not being fully compliant with German laws. Updating these outdated, anti-competitive, and unecological laws did somehow not happen. Instead of legislative changes we see the old-school taxi lobby pushing their special interest successfully through German courts.

The court in Frankfurt also questions whether Uber is merely a platform connecting drivers with passengers or actually the provider of the ride. A spokesperson of the court said that consumers are not aware of Uber being merely a platform. One can only assume that the judges have never used an Uber as to everyone who was in an Uber and had a conversation with their driver it is pretty obvious that the drivers and independent contractors and not employees of Uber.

No one is forced to use an Uber!

In the heated debate about whether ride hailing services such as Uber or Lyft should be banned many people suggest that they aren’t safe as the drivers are not licensed taxi drivers. And while there are definitely black sheep among Uber drivers one can at least be assured to be GPS-tracked during the entire ride and one can give feedback to Uber about bad behavior. More important is that the dimension of choice does not appear in the debate at all: No one is forced to use an Uber. So those who dislike Uber should just not use their services and keep walking, cycling, or taking a cash-only overpriced and smelling Taxi. But those who prefer to use the Ubers of the world should be allowed to choose as well.

Fighting for consumer choice since Summer 2014

I was probably one of the first Uber customers when they started in Berlin. I just loved that I didn’t need to have cash on me and usually spent 30% less than in a yellow cab. When in Summer 2014 taxi drivers all over Europe went on a symbolic strike against the new competition from Uber, two friends of mine and I took an Uber (and paid it out of our own pockets) to the taxi manifestation in front of the olympic stadium in Berlin. We countered the 1,000 taxi drivers protesting by endorsing competition and made some headlines that day.

On the other side you can clearly see that some taxi drivers weren’t happy at all about consumers fighting for their right to choose. Just look at this very angry driver:

The fact that there were literally no consumer groups that stood up for customers like us who wanted to be able to choose between Uber and taxis was one of the reasons why we went on and several years later started the Consumer Choice Center.

There are many outdated regulations that don’t reflect consumer preferences and just serve special interests. In cases like Uber bans this is not just bad for consumer choice but also for the environment and traffic. 

My big appeal to German politicians is to update legislation and create a solid framework in which innovative companies such as Uber and Lyft can compete with legacy industries such as licensed taxis. Or as we say in German: Macht die Bahn frei für Wahlfreiheit im Taximarkt!

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at

A Personal Note: All I want for Christmas is not being shamed for flying!

2019 is coming to an end and by December 31st I will have been on 81 flights and 274 hours in total this year. The 210,493 kilometers I have flown in 2019 does not include one helicopter ride I took after an avalanche looked me in a valley. I would have probably also circumnavigated the earth more than 5.25 times if the Eurostar wouldn’t be such an excellent connection with the Eurostar on my 15+ trips from London to Brussels.

And while many of my frequent flyer friends would chuckle about the fact ‘that I didn’t even hit the 100 flights a year’, many concerned environmentalists think that we should stop flying at all and the few private trips my statistic include were unnecessary. 

So should I be ashamed of flying?

Looking at the facts might be a better way to navigate one through the flight shaming debate than just parroting the claims and allegations of environmental activists.

If you care about the environment better fly!

Flying has actually overtaken car rides nearly 20 years ago as the more fuel (and hence carbon-) efficient means of transportation. Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute calculated that driving in 2010 was even about twice as energy-intensive as flying commercially. 

Comparing train rides to flights, trains will look often much better than flying. However this also depends always on where the electricity of the train is coming from (or if the train is even Diesel-fueled). Wired writes:

“It also makes a big difference whether the train is diesel-powered or electric, and – if it’s the latter – how that electricity is generated. In France, for instance, where a lot of energy comes from nuclear power and trains are mostly electric, travelling by train is greener than in the UK, which has delayed electrification plans indefinitely – although even a journey by diesel train still produces 84 per cent less carbon than flying. 

More than half of the emissions related to rail come from infrastructure activities such as building stations, laying tracks, lightning stations and powering escalators. Of course, that’s not enough to bring train emissions close to those of passenger flights, but it’s something to bear in mind when high-speed rail is touted as a greener alternative. If the routes don’t already exist, there will be a carbon cost to building them – and the rise of electric cars may change the equation further.”

If you want to feel good that you take the train you first might want to check if it’s fueled by a carbon neutral energy source such as nuclear energy. Hence the likelihood to feel environmentally conscious is higher when you take a TGV through the nuclear nation of France than an electric train or diesel train through Germany where 50% of the energy generation comes from fossil fuels and similar CO2 emitters (coal, gas, oil).

Andre Gocavles writes on about how flying is more economical and better for the environment than taking the car. He also spends a good amount of time criticizing the average numbers shown by the European Environment Agency (EEA) that are usually quoted to show how bad flying is for the environment. The EEA uses very high load factors for cars, does discount the change these cars get stuck in traffic or use air conditioning. At the same time they take below industry-average load factors for planes to put them in a (apparently politically motivated) worse light than cars. At the same time evidence tells you another story:

“In the end, a journey by plane is often environmentally better than one by car for long journeys. All other things being alike, choosing the plane increases the occupancy rate of the planes – which will take-off anyway whether you are in it or not. Doing it also reduces traffic congestion and, therefore, optimizes the overall transportation networks. Most times, if you’re carrying less than 4 people in your car, choosing the plane will give you a lower CO2 footprint. And the longer the distance, the more this logic is true. Why? Because a plane’s CO2 emissions are higher during the take-off and landing phases. So the longer the flight is, more kilometers or miles the plane will have to soften the impact of these 2 phases.”

A lot of the comparison numbers do not take into account the CO2 footprint of actually building train tracks and maintaining them. Poor occupancy rates of trains are also not mentioned.

And if you still feel bad about your (relatively low) carbon footprint caused by flying you might want to follow some of the policy suggestions offered by Reason Foundation’s Bob Poole

  • Massive Forest Restoration: A number of recent papers in peer-reviewed journals have found that there is room, on land areas adjacent to existing forests, for huge amounts of carbon-absorbing trees to be planted. A widely noted paper in Science by Jean-Francois Bastin and others estimates that reforesting 2.2 billion acres of such land could absorb 205 gigatonnes of carbon. There are a number of other scientific papers along these lines and an overview article in Scientific American.

Agricultural Land Restoration: Bloomberg News reported that for an estimated $300 billion, about 2 billion acres of worn-out farmland could be restored to productive use, sequestering carbon in the process. It cited research by the UN Food & Agriculture Organization and others. The Wall Street Journal discussed a start-up company, Indigo Ag Inc., that is setting up a market for carbon credits based on this idea.

Planes have become at least 4 times more carbon efficient compared to where they were in the 1970’s. The rise of low cost carriers have brought more narrow setups of seats on planes and occupancy rates of 90% and above due to better route planning. So the next time you hear an environmentalist complaining about flying being too cheap, feel free to respond that especially those who made flying cheaper also helped to bring down its per passenger carbon footprint. These developments are highly encouraging and also a faster improvement than with any other technology. Flight shaming and ban of this great way of transportation would kill innovation that could make flying even less noisy and less polluting. 

With that I wish you all very Happy Holidays and a good start into 2020.

Fred Roeder
Managing Director
Consumer Choice Center

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at

Creative Solutions for more Consumer Choice

Tbilisi, Georgia mandates all taxis to be white – Activists respond with free-market education on wheels!

In October 2019 the Georgian capital Tbilisi introduced tighter rules defining taxi services in the city. The formerly very open and competitive system got replaced by mandating taxis to be painted in white if they want to pick up passengers on the street. The new law also obliges taxis to be left-hand drive vehicles. In a relatively poor country like Georgia, most cars are imported used cars and come from both countries with left and right traffic. Both measures are adding costs to taxi drivers and ultimately to consumers.

Political activist and leader of the Girchi Party, Zurab Japaridze came up with an innovative solution to bypass these new regulations. He and his party set up a company called Shmaxi offering unemployed taxi drivers to drive passengers while educating them about the benefits of freedom. Passengers will not pay for the distance traveled but the length of their educational session. The drivers can either conduct the session themselves or play an audiobook in the car. Part of the educational canon are books and essays by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman. 

Japaridze told JAM News: “The company will hire driver/educators who will convey ideas about freedom to passengers and talk to them about right and wrong. If the drivers lack the necessary knowledge, we will conduct training sessions and provide video materials that the passengers can listen to.”

This educational services on wheels allow Tbilisi’s consumers to pick between the newly regulated taxi services and the usually cheaper and more fun Shmaxi. Over 500 drivers have also signed up to drive Shmaxis around town.

Campaigner Mariam Ivanidze told me that “Some Shmaxi drivers say they earn more through our company than they could through the major taxi ones”. Shmaxi is not only a political but also a commercial success.

Shmaxi started operating in the Georgian city of Kutais as welli in order to warn local regulators not to repeat the devastating taxi regulations of Tbilisi.

This is a creative and wonderful win for consumer choice and could inspire advocates for competition in the taxi markets around the world. 

Now I am wondering if I should launch Shmaxi London as a response to the recent decision by Transport for London to take away Uber’s license… Listen to Thatcher’s biography while driving from Mayfair to London Heathrow Airport would be an entertaining way of killing the time stuck in traffic.

Govt shouldn’t help Thomas Cook casualties: opinion

Don’t put ordinary consumers on the hook for flying back Thomas Cook holidayers

On Monday, the travel company Thomas Cook announced it would cease operations immediately after it was unable to raise enough money to pay off its debts. This has left hundreds of thousands of travelers without return flights from their holiday destinations.

As a response, several politicians in the U.K. called for government aid to Thomas Cook, and the government has been called to intervene and help out stranded travelers.

Fred Roeder, London-based Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, responded by stating that an intervention by the government would be the wrong direction to take.

“It is sad to see a legacy travel company such as Thomas Cook to go under,” said Roeder. “But many politicians want to show their support to stranded travelers by flying them home on taxpayers’ dime.

“While it is very unfortunate to be stranded at the end of a holiday, one should ask why taxpayers should pay for tourists who didn’t buy insolvency or travel insurance? 

“Why should those who stayed home because they either didn’t have the money or time for holidays bail out those who went for a holiday trip but didn’t want to spend the extra few pounds for insurance? This is effectively is the scenario that ordinary British consumers and taxpayers are faced with,” said Roeder.

“We cannot expect Britons who didn’t go on holiday to bail out those who did without reasonable insurance, and effectively bail out the company for its own financial mess.

“Airlines and tour operators going bankrupt happens regularly. Monarch and AirBerlin are just two recent European examples. If the government steps in every time a travel company goes bust, the wrong incentives will be set: Travelers won’t buy insurances and at the same time risk booking heavily discounted offers from troubled travel companies. 

“If this happens, then the next government-sponsored airlift will just be around the corner,” said Roeder.

This article was originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center fights for affordable flights across the world. For more information on how you can help, read our report Hands-off my Cheap Flights.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at

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