Using SUVs in India is criminal, Jairam Ramesh pronounced last week. I agree, and the reason is not only because they spew diesel. They also take up more than their fair share of road space, a limited public resource in most cities. The reality is also that most roads are hard to broaden, so the more big vehicles you have, the harder and less safe it is for smaller vehicles like cycles to move along in traffic. Our roads rarely have cycle lanes, and cyclists are frequently hit by larger vehicles. In other words, an SUV is like a dog in the manger — it also makes using less polluting vehicles a riskier proposition.
While the automobile industry seems to be outraged, it is also planning a version of the cash for clunkers scheme in India. We should stand warned by the American experience. Firstly, the scheme will bring other cars, not run on diesel, on the roads. Secondly, it doesn’t create incentives for using or improving public transportation. And thirdly, what will the companies do with these cars? Export them to Africa like much of the developed world has done? With climate change becoming a global phenomenon, this is not acceptable either.
The minister's remarks should be used as an opportunity to clean up the air and the roads by increasing the taxes on diesel cars and SUVs, investing these taxes on public transportation, to use the Urban Renewal Mission funds to procure buses routed to serve the city optimally and on CNG, and by ensuring no government agency or its projects procure SUVs.
Science has a great new product to green electronics. It is a new plastic made of soy that may be able to replace the deadly Bisphenol-A infused plastics in electronic applications. Bisphenol A is particularly poisonous for children and hits the reproductive system. In electronics it is used partly for rigidity. Soy might be able to offer similar attributes without poisons, which means we will be able to use safer products.
The biggest beneficiaries will be those who make them, because workers can be badly impacted by chemicals in their factories. I think that's a real win-win.