With petrol prices reaching unprecedented levels in India, What can the Govt. do? What can we do? What do I plan to do..
After getting a car, I have rarely used my motorcycle to commute or go shopping with my wife. Probably it’s good for the biker in me, since now I view motorcycling as a leisure/pleasure activity and not just merely for commuting. But with petrol prices hitting record highs, how long can we afford to take pleasure burning the precious resource?
In my early teen days (early 1990’s), I occasionally used to accompany my dad to the neighborhood petrol pump to tank up our Bajaj Scooter.
The 1990-91 was also the time of the Gulf war, when Saddam Hussain had invaded Kuwait. For the first time in human history, people watched the the war almost live on cable TV (courtesy CNN). But more significantly what followed the Gulf war was a sharp rise in Global petrol prices.
Back in those Gulf War days I faintly remember my dad shelling out around 22-25 odd rupees for a litre of petrol (along with the 2T Oil).
Flash forward 2011 and the petrol prices are now around the Rs. 60 per litre mark..!!
Nearly 200% increase in petrol prices in the last 20 years..!! And one thought that the Gulf war was bad enough..!!
The price rise has been most steep in the last couple of years. Given the current state of affairs, I suspect the price of petrol in India will touch the Rs. 100 per litre mark in 4-5 years time very easily.
Why is the price of petrol rising so rapidly in India?
1. Demand and supply
Petrol comes from crude oil, a natural resource found deep below the earth’s crust, formed by the remains of plants and animals which died millions of years ago.
Now since there is a limit to the amount of biological matter which thrived on the earth millions of years ago, there is naturally a limit to which the earth has stock of crude in its belly.
Lets keep in mind that India puts around a million (10 lakhs) of 2 wheelers every single month. Now just imagine the demand for petrol that keeps piling up each year.
There is simple law in economics: "When the demand is more and supply is limited, the price is bound to increase".
2. The vote bank policies of our politicians
If there is an increase in prices of Diesel, Kerosene or Cooking (LPG) Gas by just a couple of rupees, you can be sure that there will be a country wide protest/bandh against the ruling Govt. the very next day.
According to the opposition, how can the govt. be so uncouth by not caring for the "aam aadmi" (common man)? After all the diesel is used by farmers on their tractors and the Kerosene and LPG gas by the common man to cook. The prices of these "aam aadmi" fuels are therefore kept in check so that the Govt. doesn’t topple over.
But then Petrol, Diesel, Kerosene, LPG all are basically byproducts of the refining process of the same Crude Oil. Ideally there should not be much of a difference in the price incurred during the refining of these by products.
So in order to protect the vote bank, these "aam aadmi" fuels are subsidized/protected/shielded by the Govt. The result, Petrol prices keeps on increasing. A friend of mine who works in an Oil Company, says that LPG should actually be priced at around Rs. 500-550 per cylinder in India instead of the current Rs. 350 (approx.) per cylinder..!!
What can the Govt. do?
1. Invest in infrastructure and Public conveyance: If there is a reliable and comfortable bus/metro service which can take you to your work place in faster time, then people would naturally prefer to use them for commuting rather than use their personal vehicles.
2. Encourage the use of vehicles which run on alternative energy sources: Electric cars/2 wheelers are beginning to appear in the market, but the current prices of these vehicles are still not attractive enough for the common people. Govt. should encourage the use of these vehicles by slashing the duties on these vehicles and also encourage our domestic companies to invest in R&D of such products which do not run on fossil fuel.
What can we do?
1. Limit the use of personal vehicles: Carpooling is one way of reducing our fuel bills (if not care for the environment and the depleting crude oil reserves). If possible use bicycles to work or for short commutes.
2. Switch off out vehicles at traffic stop: This is one small practice which is not followed by most of us. According to my friend who works in an Oil company, this small practice can lead to saving of huge amounts of fuel in a country like India in which millions of vehicles ply on the road.
3. Don’t keep the engine on just to keep the AC working: I have often seen swanky, fuel guzzling cars parked without passengers in the summer with the engine on, so that the AC keeps the interiors cool. People who do this should be penalized according to me.
What I plan to do
1. Cycle to work: My one way commute to the workplace is a 6.5 Km trip. Which means every day I have to cover around 13-14 kms (which incidentally is the fuel efficiency figure of my car) to work. The fuel bills have made me realize that by not taking the car to my workplace, I would be saving around 20-24 litres of petrol every month. And to cycle 6 odd kms (one way) is definitely not difficult. Plus it would be good exercise for someone who is in his thirties.
Fuel prices are bound to increase in the future and we have no control over them. But with judicious use, we can definitely try to extend the period over which this fossil fuel would be viable to be used.
I clearly see telling my grandchildren stories of those times in which motorcycles used to run on something called Petrol..!!
- I get my first "Inline, 4 Cylinder, 1 Litre"; The Chevrolet Spark!!
- The Yamaha R15, Hero Honda Karizma ZMR, Pulsar 220 all are commuter bikes!!
- Marriage, Motorcycles and Blogging do not mix well
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