Saving Fuel | Daily News

Saving Fuel

The upward revision of fuel prices was expected for quite some time, given the fact that crude oil prices in the world market have shot up to US$ 75 per barrel. When the National Unity Government reduced fuel prices soon after its victory in January 2015, the figure was around US$ 40 a barrel. Being mindful of the impact caused by a fuel price hike, the Government did hold on for several months incurring a heavy loss for the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), but that obviously could not continue in the long term. Fuel subsidies take a heavy toll on the economy, which is already burdened by other liabilities.

Sri Lanka, a net importer of oil, spends around US$ 4 billion a year on fuel every year. The demand for fuel has gone up due to several factors. There are more vehicles than ever on Sri Lankan roads, with more 35,000 new vehicles entering the road every month. All these vehicles require diesel and petrol, apart from the few electric cars registered every month. Another reason is the increased use of fossil fuels for power generation as hydropower resources have been affected by the drought.

In the light of the fuel price hike, we have to rethink our fuel usage and transport patterns. Being an emerging economy, we do have a love affair with the private car. Everyone wants one and being a free society, no one can stop people from buying cars and other vehicles. But what matters more is how we use them. We see hundreds of cars entering Colombo with only the driver on board, which naturally results in huge traffic jams. Some schools have 5,000 students and an almost equal number of cars can be seen near these schools in the morning and afternoon. One can just imagine how much fuel is consumed in this manner.

Many countries charge a fee from cars that have only the driver if they wish to enter the main city centre. This may not be practical here, but car owners should think of car pooling and ride sharing. There are local and international ride hailing firms in operation in Colombo and Kandy which already make it possible for a driver to pick up passengers heading the same way. Workers in offices can “rotate” their cars to come to work. These steps can obviously take a few hundred cars off the road.

But the best way to reduce our dependence on the private car is to have a modern, clean and efficient public transport system such as the proposed Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) system that will eventually have around seven lines. A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is also on the cards, whereby buses can use especially designated lanes and halts, even against oncoming traffic. Some countries allow public taxis and electric cars too to use this facility. A better public transport system is the only long-term answer to traffic congestion.

More concessions should be granted for the purchase of electric cars but the Government should also encourage the installation of solar powered electric car chargers. This will prevent electric cars being charged off the National Grid, which is mainly dependent on thermal power generation. That can negate any gains made by running a car on electricity. With the Government phasing out new registrations of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in line with other countries such as India and UK, we have to rethink the electric car strategy.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is another option we should look at. It is a cheap fuel to make and use, which is why it is so widespread in public transport in most countries. Its prices do not fluctuate all that much, making it ideal for developing countries. There are several advantages of having CNG vehicles which are now manufactured by many carmakers. On average CNG costs around half the amount of regular fuel and manufacturers claim 100 kilometres of driving will consume only around 3.5 kgs of CNG.

It is also a much greener fuel. The emissions and hydrocarbons that are released as a byproduct of CNG usage are lesser than those created by regular fuel. Since some cars run on both CNG and petrol, two tanks have to be accommodated. The upside is that the range is much better with two tanks, up to 1,400 Km.

In our region, the best example for CNG use is India, where Delhi and Mumbai are two major cities that actively encourage CNG powered cars and of course, public transport including taxis. It is a solution that greatly reduces environmental pollution.

Worldwide, energy companies and scientists are striving to make cleaner fuels, including bio-fuels (about which a debate is raging vis-à-vis the reduction of crops available for human consumption) and artificial fuels such as the recently unveiled Audi e-gas. Hydrogen fuel cell powered cars are just starting to appear in Japan and USA but will take at least 10 more years to go mainstream worldwide. In the meantime, we should all strive to save fuel, because every drop counts. 


There are 2 Comments

I am travelling from Wattala. As you have mentioned I see only the driver on board in the vehicle and this is an utter waste of fuel. However, it is noted that there is no comforable transport to travel to Colombo other than driving your own car. I suggest that the Transport Ministry should consider allowing private, airconditioned buses even for short distances. My opinion is that many will opt to travel in private airconditioned buses rather than your own vehicle. For the consideration of the relevant Authorities.

Price of fuel will not be down so long as the demand iis alone pay for it. Set up a car pool to fill the car dhare the expenses which include higher insurance. Companions share costs

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