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The Observer: What is the greenest way to get around?

For those who prefer not to cycle or walk, the eco answer to getting from A to B is to mix and match, says Lucy Siegle

Sunday October 1, 2006

I concede that the clean, green mobility charms of the push bike won’t seduce everyone. Unfortunately nobody has come up with such an easy, cheap and benign means of getting from A to B (other than walking), although the conundrum continues to occupy the world’s best minds.

Conversely, millions approach the topic completely mindlessly, which explains why transport accounts for 60 per cent of all CO2 emissions, and emissions from private cars in the UK are projected to reach 88.2m tonnes of CO2 (MtC) by 2010. The worst opprobrium, as ever, should be saved for those who have undone any slight fuel efficiency gains by swanning about in gas guzzlers (formalise your distaste at

Car clubs such as are a great idea, liberating cars from being a polluting status symbol to a more sustainable service. Similarly, mitigates the eco fallout of driving solo, which causes 50 per cent more CO2 emissions than making the same journey on a bus. Hailing a taxi is becoming marginally less ethically dubious, too, thanks to stricter pollution standards. Or you can play it safe and book a greentomatocar (, which runs a fleet of 50 hybrid taxis.

The glaringly obvious eco answer is, of course, public transport. But which is better, bus or train? The bendy bus recently featured in London exhibition The Bad Design Amnesty. Rumoured to be prone to combustion, its length also creates congestion, negating environmental bonuses. But don’t let this eclipse the positive points of bus travel: overall, buses emit just one MtC per year, compared with 1.5 MtC emissions from trains. Trains, however, are increasingly switching to electric, substantially decreasing their carbon footprint.

But really, we’re holding out for a marriage between grotty public transport and super-glamorous cutting-edge green technology, such as the hydrogen-cell RV1 bus currently being trialled in London, or the fleet of new buses burning hydrogen in standard engines expected in Rotterdam in the near future.

Until then, it’s about mixing up travel options, including train, bus and car clubs. If you are stuck with the old internal combustion engine, you might want to bear in mind that all oil companies are not created equally. Exxon Mobil (whose UK subsidiary is Esso) spends just $10m a year on non-fossil fuel research and has been linked to the funding of organisations that undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. BP, meanwhile, spends $100m a year on non-fossil fuel research, while Shell invested $1bn between 2003 and 2005. So even if you can’t dump the pump, you can buy better gas.

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