Monday, February 05, 2007

Green set of wheels

In a recent article Haaretz put forward the plans underfoot at the Min. of Environment, Finance and Infrastructure to deal with global warming vis a vis vehicles . Now as far as I am concerned the only set of wheels that I consider green come with a bicycle but sadly I am in a minority . So once we get over this debate of what is green and once I am bludgeoned to submission that one does not need to reduce the number of car trips , just shift to something more green , I can start to see what's green in the proposed bill .
The main features as reported are

  • Diesel-powered vehicles over five years old be banned from entering central Tel Aviv, unless they are equipped with devices that significantly reduce polluting emissions.
  • Scrapping of cars over 20 years old.
  • Proposal to convert all cars in the civil service to more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly models (such as hybrids and electric vehicles) within five years.
  • Incentives for promoting clean fuel products not derived from crude oil, and for diesel alternatives .

And probably the most important is the issue of green taxation .

The legislation in question includes significant financial incentives for promoting clean fuel products not derived from crude oil, and for diesel alternatives, in keeping with the decision of the interministerial committee dealing with "green" taxation, which is due to issue its conclusions in the very near future.

A step in the right direction , a bit delayed in coming but nevertheless . Scrapping of older cars is something I am not too sure of . On one hand these cars pollute much more than newer cars but scrapping does involve a lot of waste production out of which not everything is recyclable and finds its way to landfills in the third world . New cars have an enormous amount of embodied energy which doesn't always find it's way into the energy equation . If one does the lifetime cost analysis , a dust to dust analysis i.e beginning from the raw materials to the stage it is recycled the fuel consumption for every kilometer can be as low as 10% of the total cost . Which means a new car with its fuel efficiency would use more energy in it's production than what it will save in it's lifetime . And the fact that it hits the economically weakest is also something to think of . The article mentions a compensation of NIS 3000 for scrapping older cars , hardly an incentive . On the other hand maybe these cars can be retrofitted to run on gas to reduce the damage .
I used to be a big believer in biofuels but lately I am having serious doubts about it . Read about it here and here .
We all harp about alternative energies and how they can bring us salvation but the greenest set of wheels still belong to a bicycle .

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Should we be worried about the price of tortillas

Ok , it has started happening . BBC reported that in Mexico the Mexicans stage tortilla protest
The price of the flat corn bread, the main source of calories for many poor Mexicans, recently rose by over 400%.

President Felipe Calderon has said the government will clamp down on hoarding and speculation to ease the problem.

But some blame the rise on demand for corn to make environmentally-friendly biofuels in the United States.

So is this where we are headed , the developed nations divert food crops to the production of bio-fuels and in the developing nations there is shortage of food ?
If this story is indicative of what is un store we are headed for worse times than 'tortilla protests' To reiterate what I has been said before about the damage bio-fuels can wreak read George Monbiot's Worse than fossil fuel .
Bio-fuels are no silver bullet , the one all inclusive means to salvation . It has to be a number of ideas leading to the same goal . Also we just cannot fool ourselves into believing we can continue to expend energy at the same levels as we did at our arrogant best if we switch to 'sustainable alternatives ' .

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