Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Subsidised diesel Vs Pertol

The crude oil prices are touching new highs every day, and with each passing day the indian oil PSU's (HP, BP..) are making huge losses. The government does help them by providing oil bonds to reduce the loss. But a price hike for fuels is inevitable just round the corner.
As always, we get to hear that the prices of petrol will be hiked much more than what it will be for Diesel. The reasoning being that diesel is the fuel that farmers depend on to run their tractors and other equipment including water pumps etc., diesel is also the fuel of choice for trains (where electrification is not done yet) and for the majority of public transport infrastructure. Fair enough I think.
However, what is not so fair is the huge number of mid-end to high-end cars which have come into the market that run on diesel. Now, diesel is the subsidised fuel and it is being used to run high-end cars (read mercs, bmw's, audi's.... ), SUV's and also many other cars. So is any purpose being fulfilled by subsidizing diesel. Rather a problem scenario is created and people rush to buy diesel cars because they would be more economical in the long run as a result major portion of the subsidized fuel ends up getting used where it should not be and due to the high demand a price hike for diesel also becomes inevitable.

So, a cycle of things start which starts going completely wrong and it would soon become difficult to correct. Because at some point of time I would guess the number of diesel cars would exceed the number of petrol cars and then even price hikes in petrol would not benefit the oil companies, because the consumption of diesel will be more than petrol.

In my opinion subsidized fuel should not be allowed to be used for any other purpose apart from what it is intended to. Like in the case of cooking gas (I agree black marketeers still misuse cooking gas, but it is not very wide spread) which is strictly controlled and cannot be misused easily at least not at a mass scale.

My suggestions:
  1. If possible, stop the production of any more diesel cars (atleast the highend ones, costing more than 4 lac rupees). If people can buy such expensive cars, they sure should be able to buy the slightly more expensive petrol and not depend on the govt subsidy to drive their vehicles.
  2. If (1) is not quite feasible, at least tax diesel cars much more (3-4 times more) than the petrol ones, to discourage people from buying the diesel cars.
  3. By implementing the above two, the number of diesel vehicles can be controlled and demand for diesel will be lower than that of petrol. Hike prices of petrol to get more revenue, keep the prices of diesel low and make sure it is only used for the purpose it is supposed to be. This will enable to keep public transport cheap and will encourage people to use the public transport. Traffic woes will also be reduced as more people would use the cheaper public transport and not the expensive private cars unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Reduce the taxes on hybrid and battery based cars, which will encourage people to use alternative and greener fuels.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Whiz kid uveils the secret to bio-degrading platic.

Source : http://publication.samachar.com/pub_article.php?id=1980936&navname=Health%20/%20Science%20&moreurl=http://publication.samachar.com/timesofindia/news/healthscience.php&homeurl=http://publication.samachar.com

It's pretty much common knowledge that plastic bags take 1000 years to decompose, if they do at all, but that fact just wasn't good enough for 16-year-old Daniel Burd. He's found a way to make plastic bags decompose in about three months by his estimation.

The Waterloo, Ontario, high school junior figured that something must make plastic degrade, even if it does take millennia, and that something was probably bacteria.

According to a report in the Waterloo Record, Burd mixed landfill dirt with yeast and tap water, then added ground plastic and let it stew. The plastic indeed decomposed more quickly than it would in nature; after experimenting with different temperatures and configurations, Burd isolated the microbial munchers. One came from the bacterial genus Pseudomonas, and the other from the genus Sphingomonas.

He was able to degrade 43% of some plastic within six weeks.

Burd says this should be easy on an industrial scale: all that's needed is a fermenter, a growth medium and plastic, and the bacteria themselves provide most of the energy by producing heat as they eat. The only waste is water and a bit of carbon dioxide.

The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide—each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide, said Burd.

The young student's accomplishment has not gone unnoticed. He won the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa. This prize is prestigious as well as tangible. He received $10,000 as well as a $20,000 scholarship.Burd, a Grade 11 student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, got the idea for his project from everyday life. "Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me," he said. "One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags."

The answer: not much. So he decided to do something himself.

A researcher in Ireland has uncovered the capability of pseudomonas to decompose polystyrene, but as far as Burd and his teacher Mark Menhennet know—and they've looked—Burd's research on polyethylene plastic bags is a first.

To see if his process would work on a larger scale, he tried it with five or six whole bags in a bucket with the bacterial culture. That worked too.

"This is a huge, huge step forward... We're using nature to solve a man-made problem." Burd would like to take his project further and see it in use.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Green Budget ?

Well not quite a green budget from Mr. PC this time. But still there was something to cheer as the Excise duty on Hybrid Cars has been reduced from 24% to 14%. This will not have any major impact right away, because there are no hybrid cars being sold in india right now. But Mahindra whenever it launches its Hybrid scorpio will definitely benifit and hopefully pass on the benifit to the buyers.
The Honda Civic Hybrid is also expected to be launched later in the year or early next year and will benefit from the duty cut.
I would suggest our dear Finance Minister to cut excise duties and other taxes heavily on hybrid and Battery operated vehicles so people can be encouraged to use them and the country's fuel bills can also be controlled.
Lets hope for more concessions on green technologies in the coming years !!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Incentives can help reduce and reuse.

Most of the time if people are presented with incentives that are good and inviting enough the tend to do things that they normally would not. I have a similar thought that if proper incentives can be provided we can make people live a more cleaner and greener life. I will try to list a few of my ideas below :

  • Provide incentives for registering for e-bills and e-statements.All of us use mobile phones and credit cards and have bank accounts. The monthly account statements of credit cards and bank accounts and monthly bills of the phones are all generally sent to customers with some more printed material (mostly advertisements to recover the cost of sending the bills in most of the cases). Now if I have a phone bill, a credit card bill and a bank statement (most people actually may have more than 3-4 credit cards and more than 2-3 accounts, and also demat accounts etc.) So even by the most conservative calculation I would receive around 12-15 pages of printed material and envelopes. If I could register for electronic bills/statements for all these accounts I could help save the senders a lot of headache and lot of "paper" thereby reducing the usage of paper and saving trees in turn. But what If the company can pass on some of the benifit to me say even a 10 rupee reduction on my bill would encourage me to switch to e-statements rather than paper statements.
  • Companies should encourage employees to use the public transport or shared transport (carpools?) so that they cause less pollution and less traffic on the roads. That would encourage people to use the public transport and will go a long way in solving many problems (traffic, pollution, undue usage of fuels..)
  • Provide employees the option to work from home. This is a big winner in my opinion. Atleast some sectors can very easily adopt this model and can be a great incentive to the employee as well and will reduce a lot of traffic on the roads. There are going to be issues, but then those can be dealt with and specially if the companies already have a setup this can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction aswell.
  • Conferences/Meetings should be encouraged to adopt a virtual model and encouragement should be given to conduct meetings/conferences virtually if that is possible. Because it can not only help people save a lot of travel time but also save a lot of fuel.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Proper disposal of domestic garbage.

We never realize how simple practices at home can go a long way in securing a clean and green environment for us. Proper disposal of domestic garbage with segregation of recyclable waste is one such practice which if put into practice in our daily life can really work wonders.

All we need to do is the following :

Collect plastics and other recyclable waste separately (plastic bags, wrappers, empty milk packets, Paper waste etc.) and either pass them to recycling units or give them to garbage collectors. Now a days we get everything wrapped in plastic wrappers right from fruits and vegetables to dal and rice.. so its a good habit to collect these wrappers separately after using the contents. And once in a week these wrappers and other waste collected over the period can be passed on to the garbage collectors. They would send the plastic waste to the appropriate recycling agency.

So, all you need is two dustbins instead of one. One for your usual day to day waste and the other for the recyclable waste. Following this practice you would also get to know how much of plastic you use and you can try to reduce the usage of plastics. Here are some tips to do so.

Such simple domestic practices if practiced can take us a long way in reducing the use of plastics and stopping them from being disposed untreated. Most of the plastic not disposed properly end up either blocking drains or littering the roads. If properly disposed the waste plastic can be put to some good use.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sangam 2008: The All-India NGO Summit for Environment

Sangam 2008: The All-India NGO Summit for Environment is an initiative that attempts to bring together multi-sectoral NGOs from across the country on one common platform to develop practical solutions for India’s most pressing environmental concerns. With the correlation between development processes and the environment, NGOs have an extremely sound working understanding of
social conditions and their practical relation to environmental sustainability. The interactive and engaging program structure will allow for increased networking, enhanced awareness and more holistic solutions.

See here for more details.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where do I plant trees ?

I have met many people who would like to contribute and help towards planting of trees. But the main problem with living in a city is that there is hardly any space available to plant trees. Even I have been over the past few weeks trying to find ways of contributing towards planting trees and doing my bit in saving the green cover. In that quest I googled a lot and finally was able to reach trees for free, an organization which plants trees and helps maintain a green cover for our beautiful city.

They also maintain a blog, and it felt really good to see them doing a nice job. I would certainly join them and volunteer for some activities while also contribute atleast rupees 100 monthly towards the fund that they maintain to plant trees.

Moreover, there is also a scarcity of space in the city to plant trees. So, It would be good if people take the cause seriously and allow the planting of trees near their homes.

Lets hope we can give our city a good green cover and make it clean and green !!