Just a thought about fossile pricing
This summer is definitely peak cognitive dissonance. In every corner of the world we have some form of environmental disaster, be it massive flooding, heat waves or burning forests. At the same time, air traffic is at an all time high with record numbers that beat 2019 before the pandemic.
One argument that is always heard when people say that every mode of transportation fueled by fossil fuels needs to have a proper price that prices in the environmental cost is “but what about all the people that will suddenly no longer be able to afford air travel then”.
I recently thought about this a bit more and here's my (probably somewhat shallow) take on it:
If, as so many claim, the market is to regulate itself, then there are actually no alternatives to higher prices. If our goal is to get rid of air travel emissions (and there are many good reasons to do so), and we want to do this without outright banning certain forms of travel, then pricing is the only option. Yes, that will price a lot of people out of those modes of transportation. Yes, that isn't ideal.
But I think the argument that we need to keep the prices down to make/keep air travel affordable is a red herring. Air travel is still, even though while being massively subsidised all over the world, very unaffordable for large parts of the earths population. It's just in rich western countries and some recent emerging countries that air travel became generally affordable for a majority of people.
At the same time what this argument is not addressing is that we're dealing with an increase in inequality in many parts of the world, making the problem worse.
And here lies the crux of the issue, I think. Billionaires and Millionaires will never be priced out of the market for air travel, be it long distance or short distance – which probably means that this field of the market needs some hard regulation that, for example, drastically reduces the amount of private jet travel (Very needed, but also very unlikely to happen anytime soon, I'm afraid). For everyone else, the goal cannot be to keep air travel as cheap as possible so that everyone can fly as much as possible, because regardless of how we do it, we must reduce air travel as much as we can. Trying to reduce inequality as much as possible, both on a global level but also within societies seems like a much better way of giving everyone an equal opportunity, not just for that one trip to the far east you've been dreaming about your whole life (it me!) but for life in general.
And yes, I know that this is not how capitalism likes to run things. I know.