In an interview in the weekend Wall Street Journal, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has some choice words for the environmental fanatics trying to hobble his industry (“eco-nutters,” he calls them) . “Mention airlines and carbon dioxide in the same sentence,” says interviewer Kyle Wingfield, “and he begins peppering his language with four-letter words.”
Earlier this year, before becoming Britain’s prime minister, Gordon Brown raised taxes on air travel to and from the U.K. The then-Treasury chief’s stated purpose was fighting climate change. Mr. O’Leary, whose airline serves more than a dozen British airports, demurs: “He just raised taxes on airlines. It has [bleep]-all to do with climate change! We’ve written several letters . . . to the Treasury, asking what the money’s going to be spent on. We still haven’t gotten a reply.
This is the problem with all this environmental claptrap . . . it’s a convenient excuse for politicians to just start taxing people. Some of these guilt-laden, middle-class liberals think it’s somehow good: ‘Oh, that’s my contribution to the environment.’ It’s not. You’re just being robbed–it’s just highway [bleeping] robbery.”
Airlines have become an enormous target for global-warming doomsayers. Last month, campaigners staged a nine-day protest outside London’s Heathrow airport, hoping to discourage summer vacationers from flying. Mr. O’Leary points out that air transport accounts for only 2% of carbon dioxide emissions world-wide–“It’s less than marine transport, and yet I don’t see anyone [saying], you know, ‘Let’s tax the [bleep] out of the ferries.’ ”
Mr. O’Leary assigns further blame to “the chattering bloody classes . . . or what I call the liberal Guardian [newspaper] readers–they’re all buying SUVs to drive around the streets of London. And there’s this huge disconnect between their stated passion for or care for the environment and what they actually do. They all want to buy kiwis and kumquats in the supermarket on Saturday. They’re flown in from New Zealand for chrissakes! They’re the equivalent of, you know, environmental nuclear bombs! But nobody says, ‘Let’s ban the kiwi fruits.’ “
Amen. It’s also good to hear a businessman refuse not only refuse to apologize for his success, but celebrate it.
“I think we certainly have democratized flight, in that there’s no curtains anymore, there’s no business class anymore, you’re not made to feel, you know, two inches tall–like, ‘Here you go, down with the poor people at the back.’ Everybody’s the same on Ryanair. . . . We’re in this to make money and provide a service. The more service we provide, the more money we make.”
Not a hard concept to understand — so why don’t more CEOs talk like that?