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Initiatives

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Coal-based power generation to get cheaper

Will coal once again become viable?
China has just banned import of coal from smaller ports. Moreover, India is also importing less coal, and so are other countries.  This decline in demand will cause coal prices to fall and make coal based power more competitive.  The government needs to impose a carbon emission based tax regime to ensure that renewable sources of energy don’t lose their advantage.



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Indian utility bets $10 billion on coal power

NTPC plans to build huge coal based power plants that they claim to be 2-3% more efficient.  However, question is given the renewable energy push by the government should NTPC be allowed to move forward with its plan? 
Additional coal based power capacity of 5GW is being planned by NTPC which believes that rapidly growing India will need low cost stable energy.  True, rapidly growing India will indeed require additional energy, but Gas is a far more suitable option in the non-renewable space.  Irrespective of the technology used, Coal remains the worst among all the known fossil fuels in the world.



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Solid Waste Incineration: Bad Technology Choice

The government and NITI Aayog are favoring burning of all garbage, but it may not work well in India.
Plastics typically have a very high calorific value. Similarly, cloth and paper also burn well.  But most of these are already picked and sold by informal sector workers including rag pickers.  So how will the remaining waste burn efficiently?  On the other hand, since municipal bodies are quite dysfunctional across India, the administrative bandwidth required for making segregation based system work is missing.  What should India do?  Wish I could give you an answer, but for the time being, read this to better understand India’s garbage problem.



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The Electric Car Revolution Is Accelerating

Once the cost of electric batteries fall low enough, electric vehicles will become far more superior to the fossil fuel driven vehicles. 
In all aspects of vehicle use –pollution, comfort, maintenance, speed and control, the EV is far superior. However, the high battery weight and cost is the only hurdle.  But as batteries become more and more efficient that last hurdle will fall.



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Solar blinds could cut energy bills by three quarters

One of those innovations that seem so obvious. These new window blinds can not only protect from sun, but can also generate energy.



Government Actions this week


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Finance Ministry rejects plan for local solar equipment firms

Should India subsidize its solar power equipment manufacturers?  Of course, not.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has asked India’s Finance Ministry to subsidize Indian manufacturers so that they can compete with Chinese low cost manufacturers.  It is competition that has always helped in the creation of a sustainable sector, not subsidies.



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Punjab seeks bonus from Centre to check stubble burning

Since the country benefits from actions that are costly for Punjab farmers, should not the central government compensate Punjab for stopping crop burning?
The economic argument can go both ways. Reward Punjab for incurring costs to stop its farmers from crop burning.  Or, punish the state for letting its farmers burn the straw on their fields.  



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Maharashtra hikes road tax on private cars by 2%

Maharashtra has increased vehicle registration charges by 2 percent.  They should have increased it more.  Moreover, the government should channelize all such revenue towards public transport improvements.
Maharashtra spends abysmal amounts on public transport as do most Indian states. The high dependence on private transport, high cost of living, high accident rates, high stress and road rage incidents are all natural outcomes of a deeply flawed urban taxation and service delivery regime.



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Haryana: Special cell for enforcing ban on waste burning

Typically, enforcement of environmental norms should be the function of municipal/local body.  But Haryana has come up with a special cell to tackle the problem.
Since strengthening local bodies and municipal governments seems unlikely, such special cells appear to be a good solution.  However, problem with special cells is that no one oversees them, and overtime they degenerate into dysfunctional bodies.  The government needs to ensure a sustainable overseeing and incentive mechanism for such cells.  Sadly, I am yet to come across such a mechanism.



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Waste-to-energy plant will be a new problem for Gurgaon

To segregate or not to?  While segregation is highly desirable, it is difficult to manage and sustain.  
Waste burning plant in Gurgaon is another example of lazy municipalities shrugging responsibility of segregating garbage. Moreover, burning of unsegregated waste has the potential to release potent pollutants into the environment. There is no other option but to segregate and monitor closely the plants where waste is burnt.



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Delhi minister halts tree felling after protests by residents

Should we cut trees to ease traffic?  The answer is not so clear.
Cutting a few hundred trees in one part of the city has little impact on pollution.  Moreover, planting new trees or replanting them can further negate the side effects of cutting trees from one part of the city. 


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