The weather and the visibility during the weekend were just great and it looked kind of absurd that the flights were banned. But was it really absurd?
Play a Flash game in which you are the volcano trying to shoot down the airplanes.The airlines have been losing approximately $200 million per day. That's a lot but it's not an infinite amount of money. A part of this loss was happily earned and therefore "compensated" by the railways that have seen a visible increase in the demand for their services. ;-) After all, Czech President Klaus (and the prime minister and Prague's Catholic Archbishop) had to take a train to Lech Kaczynski's funeral, too.
Nevertheless, this financial loss of the airlines - which has already exceeded the impact of flight bans after the 2001 terrorist attacks - is by far the most significant consequence of the recent average volcano eruption. I can assure you that the changes of CO2 or the temperature are negligible in comparison.
By the way, the E-word volcano started to produce less ash and more lava which is good. As soon as all the debt of Iceland is forgiven, the Icelanders will turn the volcano off. After all, 75% of the debt has already been paid: the Britons demanded cash and they have already received ash. :-) The remaining 25% can't ever be returned because the Icelandic language doesn't have any "c".
The airlines such as Air France, British Airways, KLM, and Lufthansa have performed their own tests - they have sent several aircraft directly through the ash clouds - and they have found no measurable impact on the aircrafts and engines whatsoever. It is not shocking that they're urging everyone to lift the ban and the EU officials could actually agree.
However, it's also true that NATO claims that the ash clouds recently damaged the motors of several F-16 fighters, a statement I can't independently confirm and that can be specific to F-16 whose speed can reach 1.6 Mach (multiples of speed of sound) i.e. 2,000 km/h.
The Prison Planet and The Telegraph's articulate and insightful writer, James Delingpole, have been thinking about the precautionary principle in this context. They're mostly making fun out of it and I think that they surely have a point.
Do I think that the ash can be dangerous all over Europe? Well, I have serious doubts about it and the experimental tests seem absolutely essential as tools to establish the existence or absence of a real risk. $1 billion per week is enough money for us to check whether we don't believe a superstition. In Iran, senior clerics believe that earthquakes are caused by prostitutes i.e. by women without any burqa but the Western countries may prefer a different approach to science and policy. :-)
Why do I find the danger hard to believe? Well, you need to look at pieces of dust that are able to stay in the atmosphere, ten kilometers above the ground, for several days. I tend to believe that to stay in the air for such a long time, the ash must be composed of pretty small and light particles. And after the days, the concentration becomes pretty small, too. So it just seems unlikely that it can damage such big machines.
I would even guess that things like insect may have a bigger impact.
Very soon, we will see how the regulators decide about the airlines' protests. I would like to stress that the airlines have no interest to do "more dangerous things" than others. After all, air accidents are bigger problems for the airlines themselves than for anyone else! They surely have no financial motivation to be killing the passengers. So I would kindly leave most of this risk assessment to their own experts.
Note that the ban has only lasted for several days and it has only affected one small portion of the economy on one half of a continent. Still, people are nervous, tens of thousands of people are stuck at random places, while lots of investors are worried about their lost profits and possible bankruptcies.
Now, imagine that some people effectively want to impose similar bans that would affect the whole economy of the entire world for decades - or forever. This clearly can't work.
As soon as people start to be affected - to the extent that the CO2 production will significantly drop below the levels that the nations could afford economically - you may be sure that people will start to realize that the economy-wide carbon regulation is a complete insanity or a crime and the people who have actively helped to codify it - and fill their own pockets with money along the way - should be put in jail or executed.
The only reason why we're not there yet is that there's been no "successful" reduction of CO2 emissions caused by any of the policies so far. But make no mistake about it, the proponents of carbon regulation are playing a very dangerous game with their own lives.
And that's the memo.