Fuel price hike without measures to check oil guzzling is meaningless: CSE

New Delhi, June 5, 2008: As the world celebrates Environment Day and on the day after the fuel price hike, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says it is not time to celebrate. CSE is deeply concerned that the fuel price hike has not come with accompanying fiscal measures to save fuel in the transport sector.

“Price hike cannot be an adequate strategy to address the energy emergency that the country is facing today,” says Sunita Narain, director, CSE. “This action is too little and too late and will be inadequate as international fuel prices are expected to increase, not decrease. Reactions such as these, without taking steps to save fuels by promoting public transport and fuel-efficient vehicles, will hurtle India towards a serious energy crisis.” 

Instead of introducing fiscal measures, the government has given an 11 per cent hike in petrol prices and 9.5 per cent hike in diesel prices – thus continuing to maintain the wide price gap between the two fuels. “This will further incite car users to insulate themselves by opting for cars running on cheaper diesel,” says Anumita Roychoudhury, associate director, CSE. “It will not make any dent on the oil-guzzling that is on the rise due to the explosive increase in personal vehicle numbers. But it will certainly harm public health.”

Need tax measures to promote buses
Today, while the Delhi government has introduced comfortable AC buses as part of the larger scheme to increase the city bus fleet, the Central government has not come forward to cushion the cost of this investment by waiving off the excise tax on buses.

The newly designed urban buses will cost substantially high, says Roychowdhury. But the cosmetic gesture of the finance minister to reduce the excise duty to a mere 12 per cent -- same as that on small cars -- cannot help city governments. It will make little difference to the cost of low-floor urban CNG buses, which come at over Rs 40 lakh apiece.

It is important for the government to recognise that the usage of mass transport will go a long way in making substantial fuel savings and insulate consumers from price vagaries. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has projected that in 2035, the total fuel consumption of on-road vehicles in the country will be six times higher than in 2005 – this growth will be driven by light-duty vehicles, mainly cars. In its study on Bangalore, the ADB estimated that the city can save 21 per cent of the fuel it consumed if it increases its share of public transport from the current 62 per cent to 80 per cent.

Need fuel economy standards to check oil guzzling
It is extremely ironical that when the energy crisis has taken such a serious proportion, the car industry is refusing to disclose certified fuel economy data for all its makes and models. It is not sharing information on the actual trends in fuel economy of each vehicle model and the technical parameters that influence the fuel economy of a vehicle.

Now even the CO2 emissions factors developed by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) highlighted by CSE recently, are under attack. The ARAI has developed a range of emissions factors for different model years of vehicles for the first time to help the government decide the future roadmap for emissions standards in the country. The emissions factors represent the emissions profile of a ‘vintage class’ of vehicle produced in a specified time frame. In other words, the emissions factors do not compare one individual brand of the vehicle with the same brand of a vehicle in terms of its CO2 emissions, but instead groups the vehicles into different categories – in this case ARAI has considered the engine size – considers the most representative samples, and then compares the groups’ emissions over the different years.

A comparison of the emissions factors for CO2, developed as part of this project, and highlighted by CSE, shows steady increase through successive vintages of vehicles – 1991-96, 1996-2000, post-2000, and post-2005; CO2 emissions are directly linked to fuel economy of vehicles.

CSE has a particular reason to be worried: its environmental rating of the Indian automobile sector, carried out way back in 2001, had shown that CO2 emissions of even a particular diesel car model and a popular SUV model had actually increased when they graduated from Euro I and Euro II norms. As such trends are possible in the absence of fuel economy regulations, there is all the more reason why complete information on fuel economy and related parameters of vehicles must be shared.

It is precisely because of these tell tale signs and to understand the actual changes in the fuel economy of each car model and make, CSE had requested for data from the ARAI under Right to information Act. CSE wanted to see the changes in a range of factors that influence fuel economy of the vehicles including weight, power, technology, engine type, etc. But this information was categorically denied under RTI.

CSE demands fuel economy norms and scaling up of public transport
It is unacceptable that when the country is reeling under severe economic pressure, household budgets are stretched there is no official strategy to help reduce energy consumption in the transport sector, says Narain. It is time the government announces the policy of mandatory disclosure of fuel economy of vehicle models with complete details of technical parameters including weight, power etc and at the same time implements fuel economy standards.

  • Give tax waiver on buses to help city governments to speed up and scale up public transport systems.
  • Develop and enforce mandatory fuel economy standards. Carmakers must declare fuel economy of their vehicles. Once fuel economy standards are in place link tax measures with clean and fuel efficient vehicle technology.

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