Drunk on diesel  

Here is a very interesting article on Ten easy steps towards attaining energy independence. The author is a former chairman, ONGC and chairman TrldeaP vtLtd.

Ten easy steps towards attaining energy independence

The first meaningful and practicable step towards energy independence is to arrest dieselisation of India, without socio-economic disruption. Diesel has to be conserved, and diesel has to be substituted. Of several feasible options, ten are listed here; some will have immediate impact, and the others will make a difference over time. Any proposition with direct potential to create another speed-money bureaucracy has been excluded.

First, reduce peak-hour demand by banning lighting, whether from the grid or from gensets, for outdoor advertising between 6 and 10 pm. Besides saving energy, the darkened signboards will be a constant reminder that we live on money borrowed from future generations. Similarly, extravagant outdoor lighting, as seen in the malls and multiplexes and rich weddings etc. must be banned. Second, reduce overall demand by outlawing air-conditioning below 25°C in official (beginning with the government), commercial and public spaces.

Third, optimise power consumption by making a law to enforce use of state-of-the-art power management systems in official, industrial, commercial and public establishments before the next summer, and like in the Factories Act, make a whole-time director (joint secretary in the Government?) liable for implementation; repeat offence should invite mandatory penalty of say 0.5% of the turnover.

Fourth, immediately outlaw the practice of building bus bodies on truck chassis, and stop the ongoing wastage of diesel in avoidably higher-powered engines.

Fifth, diesel is the world's most efficient internal combustion engine. In recent decades, diesel engine performance has been significantly improved, with higher efficiency and lower emission. In India, the focus has been on fuel quality improvement and Euro IH standard has been implemented, with Euro IV coming in shortly. Indian manufacturers have not achieved corresponding improvements in the engines used in transport, industry and agriculture.

They have been allowed long enough time; implementation of prevailing EU standards on diesel engine efficiency and emission must be statutorily mandated effective say, April 2009; manufacture and sale of sub-standard engines must be outlawed from the same date. This will bring in substantive and sustained saving in diesel consumption.

Sixth, the BRT corridors offer an excellent opportunity to operate electric trolley bus shuttles, saving diesel and CNG (we have a shortage of gas as well and international gas prices have been spiking like crude).

Seventh, India has one of the smallest reserves of oil & gas, and one of the biggest reserves of coal. Railways must switch back to steam engines for long-haul freight like coal and ore. It'll be cost-efficient for the economy as a whole for the Railways to absorb the consequential losses, if any, rather than issuing oil bonds for tens of thousands of crore.

Eighth, Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) was set up after the first oil shock, by a visionary chairman of IndianOil, late CR Dasgupta. At that time, the name was Petroleum Conservation Action Group (PCAG), and chairman Dasgupta assigned one of the best and the brightest executives from his company to head the nascent organisation. A team of high-energy high-competence officers was seconded by the oil companies, and even today, the agenda they had initiated remains valid.

Over the years, PCRA has become one more parking spot for joint secretaries reluctant to revert to the state, and the companies are not very particular about their nominations. The main agenda for PCRA now is an annual carnival of "Oil Conservation Fortnight" with plenty of photo opportunities. It's high time to thoroughly revamp PCRA with competent and committed professionals, update the agenda to meet today's challenges, and measure their contribution in quantitative terms.

Ninth, a significant quantity of diesel used for power is stolen from major consumers like the armed forces, railways, state transports, municipalities and government/public sector factories. As it is, it's become cheaper to generate power from diesel rather than fuel oil-an unbelievable travesty, and stolen diesel is still cheaper!

The only effective solution is for the concerned organizations to monitor the actual average consumption figures with the manufacturer's specifications, with appropriate minor adjustments for the condition of the engine and the parameters of usage. There is no shortage of "vigilance officers".

Tenth and last, all barriers set up for tax collection (entry tax, sales tax etc.) must be re-designed to take the traffic load, and operated electronically. This is no rocket science. This is one case where the funds from the Oil Industry Development Cess, hijacked by the finance ministry, must be utilised; individual states and municipalities etc. are not likely to spare the money for such facilities and even if some did, it is important to have all-India standardization of the lay-out and the electronic process. This national change-over should be targeted for completion by say, March 2010. Besides significant saving in diesel, such a process will also check rampant leakage of revenues.

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