Government Actions this week


Centre ties itself in knots

A heart-breaking article on how one arm of the government is contradicting another.
Why would one part of the government be intent on slowing down environmentally beneficent action?  Especially when it is mostly within the public sector.  To this observer, it is simply a case of the bureaucracy running amok.   The lack of a well-functioning technocracy, the takeover of regulatory institutions, and the annihilation of academic expertise has made the politician completely dependent on the bureaucracy.  Who can control the bureaucracy?  Only someone who can see through their self-serving advice.   Read on for how one arm of the government is publicly contradicting the other.


CPCB to analyse air samples around Okhla plant once every 4 months

CPCB ordered by NGT to monitor the ambient air around Delhi’s major waste burning plant only once in four months.  Why?
The Okhla plant in Delhi burns garbage including plastics, chemicals, and whatever Delhiites dispose-off in this non-segregating city.  Dioxins are a large group of chemicals that have a long-term impact on the environment and health.  Testing them is expensive and CPCB does not have the resources to own and operate such testing.   There is a trade-off – costs versus environment.   The National Green Tribunal decided to be kind to CPCB.  But the key issue is why is the cost of important monitoring equipment not included in the project cost itself and paid for by taxpayers money?


It could be curtains for budget diesel cars after BS-VI

The end of diesel
Barely 30 months are left for BS6 standards to kick in, and the norms being what they are, diesel is likely to be dead.  It is too costly to manage BS6 requirements for Diesel says this article.  


Coal India plans for a liberalised regime

Coal India is spreading its wings
A very interesting article on a range of measures being taken by Coal India towards other energy sources – specifically renewable.   Considered to be among the worlds largest coal producers, Coal India’s diversification will take many years, but current experiments will hopefully pave the way for a more substantive shift.


Gujarat may take over Tata, Adani, Essar power plants

Defunct coal power plants being saved through government intervention.  Should they be?
Thousands of crores of investment has gone into three massive coal power projects and now they appear to be economically unviable.  Should the government step in?  Coal harms the environment and health and that impact is not costed in the financials.   If even without that costing, these plants are unviable, it is better to simply compensate the banks for the loss and shut them down. Economically (including environmental costs) these power plants will create more value as salvage than as government supported financially profitable entities.



Workers in Tamil Nadu’s fireworks hub of Sivakasi fear losing their jobs

The cost of banning firecrackers
Unlike tobacco and alcohol, the small-scale sector produces firecrackers in India.  Also regulation effectively prevented the expansion of small-scale firework units.  The downstream firecracker trade remained in the informal sector where it could avoid exploitative and unreasonable regulations.  This also enabled local government functionaries to extract their rents from firecracker trade.  The small-scale units themselves gained little from investing in new technologies.  Unlike all other chemical based industry little changed in firecracker technology over the years. 
Now the ban has left large parts of the trade with unsold inventory and losses, in addition to the impact on employment and families associated with the trade.  And the government or the judiciary is too far removed from the informal sector or the trade to understand their pain.
Investment in R&D for producing less polluting firecrackers, only licensing low polluting firecrackers, and encouraging the small trader to improve firecracker technology will enable far better environment and employment outcomes for all.


Driverless cars run into a fuel problem

Electric Vehicles may become energy guzzling due to driverless technology
The massive computing power and continuous implementation of micro-commands take up a lot of energy.  And so while electric vehicles have major environmental advantages, driverless technology eats into them.  The only sustainable answer to humanities’ transport problem is public transport. Why?  Because private transport takes up a lot of valuable space – for movement, for parking and even for repairing!  This article, however, focuses only on the high energy requirement of driverless technologies.


SC Has Been Changing Its Stand On Firecrackers

Diwali firecrackers are banned and there is no study on them!
This article laments the lack of any study by a government institution on firecrackers and their impact on pollution.  Why do we continue to depend on government or international studies for credible information?  Because even the government does not fund private Indian research.  And why has no one funded a study on firecrackers within or outside the government?  For that matter why has no one funded R&D to develop pollution-free firecrackers?  This article is about how the courts are starved of reliable information and follows the evolution of judicial decisions on firecrackers.


China pollution fight - Country turns to gas to cut smog

China moves to Natural Gas, while some others prefer hot air
Natural gas is far less polluting than either petroleum or coal and its greater use can help reduce pollution levels dramatically.   India, in contrast, has created a mechanism where many of its natural gas plants are lying unused.  Why?  Simply because coal has powerful public-sector lobbies that have taken over the bureaucracy, the technocracy and through them the political leadership.  Read on for a good description of the increased priority on Natural Gas in China.


BNP to Halt Shale Oil Financing, Expand Funds for Renewables

A key energy financer BNP Paribas washes hands off Shale Oil.
Only the naïve believe that environmental concerns take precedence in the cut-throat world of finance.  When BNP Paribas, among the worlds foremost energy financiers, ‘pledges’ to not invest in Shale oil, it is not simply environment concerns, but also the fact that cost of Shale oil extraction has ensured that it is no longer an attractive investment.


How China Is Raising The Bar With Aggressive New EV Rules

China meddles in its markets to promote electric vehicles.
Simply allowing electric vehicles may not enable rapid take-up of such vehicles.  China is using the power of the state to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles including preferential licensing.  Should India do the same?  As long as India is depending predominantly on dirty coal for its power needs, electric vehicles will serve little purpose, and may even cause more harm via lead pollution.  The movement away from coal has to go hand in hand with the movement towards electric vehicle, for it to work.

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