July 19, 2008
book, climate change, energy, global warming
We are all aware of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. Of course, there are skeptics who insist on ignoring the facts and clinging to their belief that man is too puny to affect the environment. I offer my heartfelt sympathy for them- because they will have to change their outlook drastically in the coming years. People who earnestly think that we can go on burning hydrocarbons and consuming energy at the rate we are now, are really in for a shock. At some point, man will live without fossil fuels.
The material available on this topic is often vague and confusing, as they rarely talk about the amount of fossil fuel remaining beneath the surface of the earth, the amount of carbon emitted when you drive a car for 50 km etc. That’s what David Mackay, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Cambridge says – when we talk about Energy and Climate Change, we need “numbers, not adjectives”.
His book, Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air (released under many Creative Commons licenses) is an attempt to understand the present day situation, by using numbers in a sensible manner. The book talks about the trends in the UK, but it is not difficult to extend it to any part of the world. It estimates the average energy consumption of a person, in various forms- driving a car, flying, electricity used by gadgets, energy embodied in the stuff one buys etc., compares it to the possible renewable energy sources that can be tapped(very optimistically) and tries to figure out whether our present lifestyles are sustainable. It is a must read for anyone interested in Climate Change and Energy Crisis.
The podcast of a one hour lecture delivered by him, a condensed form of the book, is also available here. All the facts and figures referred to in the talk are there in the book.
June 9, 2008
climate change, efficiency, energy, environment, inflation, news, petroleum, price, subsidy
Crude oil costs $135/barrel globally, but Indian prices of petroleum products have long been linked to barely $60/barrel. This has meant under-recoveries — explicit and implicit subsidies to consumers — of a whopping Rs 2,45,000 crore … Yet, political parties have launched agitations in protest. Politicians cynically pretend that high oil prices are the fault of the government, not Opec or global trends …
… Back in 1974, when Opec first sent oil prices skyrocketing, India had no giant consumer subsidies or agitations against oil prices. The price of petrol doubled overnight, inflicting much pain. India was very poor then. Today, it is much richer, and better able to pay the full world price. Yet, that prosperity has also brought the capacity to subsidise on an unprecedented scale …
… Ideally, India should pass on the full cost to consumers, as it did in 1974. But for politicians who view high subsidies as electoral necessities, here is a proposal. First, abolish all implicit and explicit subsidies on oil. Use the money saved to cut excise duties on other items of common consumption and provide cash to poor families. Overall inflation and government revenue will be unchanged. Yet, the poor will benefit, and high oil prices will encourage energy-efficiency …
Read the full article here.
Recently we had a hartal in Kerala protesting against the increase in the price of petrol, diesel and cooking gas. As is the culture in Kerala, everyone happily accepted the holiday. But how many of us think of the foolishness of such protests? Are we not aware of what’s happening in the world? It’s easy for opposing parties to protest whenever there’s a price hike. It’s the curse of today’s politics.
Like the author says, it’s a big big mistake to subsidise oil. Today we might enjoy lower prices, but how far can the government subsidise? One day everyone will have to suffer, no doubt. And the other side is that high prices would force the people to consume less energy, and breed a healthy habit of being energy efficient. What’s happening today is that the government is subsidising the destruction of our environment.