By Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena in Bhubaneswar, July 13, 2021: Energy is most vital for all human beings. One of the essential resources for our socio economic developments is energy. The energy we consume is mostly in industrial, transport and domestic sectors and at present more than 90% of this is derived from fossil fuels. Transport sector assumes a great importance not only for transportation of human beings but also of various commodities and animals. The transport sector is expanding very fast with increase in population, industrialization and various socio-economic activities.

At present, nearly 90% of the fossil fuels are being used to provide energy for land, water and air transport systems. Energy consumption in transport sector is around 26% of the total energy consumed in the world. In 2010, energy consumption in the transport systems was dominated by road transport amounting 76%, followed by aviation and sea transportation 11% each and the rest for others. During the last two decades or so the oil consumption in the world in road transportation has grown to 70 EJ (70 x 1018 J). While the use of bio-fuel has increased six -fold with 2.4 EJ, it , however, accounted for only 3.34% of the road transport energy consumption. The natural gas consumption for road transport between 2000 and 2010 has increased seven fold to a value of 0.9 EJ in 2010. Unfortunately, electricity consumption in the road transport sector rather declined during this period.

The transport sector though helps considerably in our socio-economic developments but it has been one of the major culprits in polluting our environment due to release of green house gases (GHG), mainly carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide etc. Because of using mostly fossil fuels, this sector now accounts for about 23% (7.3 x109 T) of annual global energy related CO2 emission (32 GT), where as in 1970 the CO2 emission was less than half of the present figure (3.3 GT per year).

Atmospheric concentration of green house gases has been increasing at fast rate mainly due to burning of huge amounts of fossil fuels in industries, transport and other sectors. These green house gases are responsible for causing global warming. Since the industrial revolution (1760- 1820) to date, the global temperature has gone up by 0.80 C and even more in sensitive polar regions. Now the effect of global warming is appearing all over the globe in some form or other.

During the last 100 years, mountain glaciers and snow cover have decreased significantly in both northern and southern hemispheres. Such widespread decrease in glaciers and ice caps has contributed significant rise in sea level, resulting in inundation of many low lying landscapes. Decreasing glaciers and snow covers are likely to reduce the availability of fresh water. Arctic snow may vanish within 10 years as it is melting much faster than previously believed. The disappearance of glaciers and ice caps may increase volcanic eruptions.

The climate change has already affected agricultural pattern and food production; warmer summers favour appearance of various diseases, spreading of insects and scarcity of fresh water and thus considerably affect our living conditions. For example in the year 2004, climate change has been responsible for increase of about 3% of each of diarrhea and malaria and 3.8% of dengue fever deaths worldwide. The climate change is not only affecting the health but also the socio-economy conditions of people in different parts of the globe. The most affected countries would be those with agriculture lead economy.

In view of all these, it is highly essential to replace the fossil fuels by renewable energy in the transport sector as much as possible. Globally at present about 93% of the transport sector is driven by petroleum- based fuels, 2% by bio-fuel and natural gas contributing only 1%.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has expressed great concern about the green house gas emission due to use of fossil fuels in the transport sector. The agency has suggested using increasing amount of renewable energy in this sector. The following three policies as suggested by IEA have to be implemented sincerely as early as possible.

a) Implementation of the committed strategies by different countries should be carried out in due period to cut down the amounts of GHG. For example, in 1992 USA planned to replace 10% of petroleum- based fuels by 2000 and 30% of that by 2010 by using environment friendly fuels, whereas by 2013 oil replacement was only 8%. Similarly, in 2003 in India the target was to replace 20% of fossil fuel by bio-fuels (bio diesel or bio ethanol) by 2017. But, this could not be achieved even up to 5% due to insufficient production of bio diesel. Its production target could not be achieved due to unavailability of sufficient feed stock and the pricing issues. Similarly, in Germany to achieve electric vehicles (EV) share of 20% in the transport system by 2020 could not even reach 1% by 2014.

b) The additional policies should be implemented to increase diversification of the transport energy needs. The IEA feels that to achieve green house gas reduction substantially, the sale of electric vehicles which is now only less than 1% of the total sale of vehicle, should go up to 40% by 2040. By that time, bio-fuel to be used in road transport should be 10%, and those for shipping and aviation should be 11% and 33% respectively. The natural gas being a carbon based fuel, cannot be that effective to cut down GHG emission.

It is interesting to note that, globally the sale of electric bikes and scooters dominate that of the sale of electric car by a wide margin (350 e-bikes or scooters are sold for every 1 electric car). For example, in 2013 about 112 thousand electric car and 40 million electric bikes and scooters were sold worldwide. It is reported that, in China there are more electric bikes and scooters than the total number of cars on road. In 2013 sell of electric bikes and scooters in China was 32 million, in Europe 1.8 million, in Japan 440 thousand and in USA only 185 thousand.

It may be mentioned here that, Brazil is pioneer in replacing petroleum- based fuels by renewable energy in transport sector For example, in 2004 IEA predicted that, by 2020 Brazil can replace petroleum -based fuels by alternate fuel by 27%. Over 85% of all light duty vehicles in Brazil use Flax Fud Technology (i.e. combination of gasoline with ethanol) and it is predicted that, by 2020, 80% automobile fleet should run with ethanol.

c) IEA has suggested making policies favouring use of renewable energy in place of fossil fuels, by removing various incentives given at present for use of fossil fuels. Further, the loss due to pollution should be taken into consideration. All emissions associated with fossil fuels production, distribution and combustion should be taken care of by concerned industries otherwise they should be charged appropriate ‘Polluter’s fee’.

Increasing application of electrical energy in transport sector, is one of the most important steps towards renewable energy provided the electrical energy is produced from renewable sources. In this case, the green house gases released from fossil fuel- based energy can be minimized considerably. Countries like Costa Rica, Colombia or Brazil those have hydro power will have relatively clean electricity while countries with coal- based electricity generation will produce electricity with high GHG emission.

In view of the harmful effects of global warming in this planet particularly on human beings, it is advisable to use all sources of renewable energy in transport sector during the years to come. The IEA estimates that, if sincere efforts are made all over the world, the renewable energy could become the leading source of electricity by 2030 and the carbon intensity of the power sector is projected to improve by 30% during that period. Cooperation of all the nations in this regard for the benefit of humanity, is highly desirable.

*Former Director General, CSIR, India.

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