By Suyash Gupta, Director General, Indian Auto LPG Co| Jan 04, 2022

How dependency on petrol/diesel has impacted the common people in India: Need for an alternative fuel

It goes without saying that not only the broader Indian economy but end-consumers too have been acutely dependent on petrol and diesel in the country. Despite the rate of growth in consumption of petroleum products coming down in recent years, the consumption of petrol and diesel has witnessed an upswing. And this rise in consumption has been coincident with a consistent rise in petrol and diesel prices. Besides the fact that India imports 85 percent of its crude oil needs, whether the price rise occurs due to shooting up of international prices or due to increase in taxes by governments, the end result is that common people are impacted both directly and indirectly by the price hike. Another adverse implication of dependency on petrol and diesel is the environmental pollution and the related health fallout.

Hence, it is critical to device a well-considered fuel policy to facilitate large scale adoption of alternative fuels such as auto LPG. This environmentally friendly and cost-effective option would not only be lighter on the common people’s pockets but also protect them against pollution.              

How the common man uses petrol and diesel

The common man uses petrol and diesel both directly and indirectly. Directly, they use petrol for passenger cars, taxis, two- and three-wheelers and diesel for road transport and agriculture, and indirectly, because the goods and commodities that they consume are transported using petrol and diesel. Although cleaner alternative fuels such as auto LPG are available in the country, the related infrastructure and the value chain still remain underdeveloped due to lack of encouragement from the concerned authorities. In the context of the larger economy, while high-speed diesel oil accounted for 34.80 percent of the total consumption of all types of petroleum products, petrol came second at 12.6 percent for the year 2019-20.

Incessantly rising retail prices of petrol and diesel

Despite the recent cuts in excise duties on petrol and diesel, the prices of the two fuels have maintained a relentlessly upward trajectory over the longer period. By the middle of the year, petrol had shot up in excess of INR 100 per litre in several states of the country while diesel has crossed the three-figure mark in several states now. This continuous price rise has not only escalated the costs of personal mobility and public transport but also affected the prices of essential goods and commodities, leading to an inflationary environment for the overall economy. Other growing sectors such as e-commerce and food delivery etc. are also affected, thereby creating tough conditions for businesses and end-consumers alike.

The environmental and health fallout of petrol and diesel usage

The transport sector in the country contributes to nearly 14 percent of CO2 emissions and 60 percent of all greenhouse gases. Out of this, nearly 95 percent comes from road transport. According to an estimate illustrating the rising levels of GHG emissions from transport, CO2 levels in India from fuel combustion shot up from 181 million tonnes (MT) in 1971 to 2,066 MT in 2015 – a whopping 1,041 percent increase. The burning of petrol gives off noxious gases, which is extremely harmful to our health and the environment. While greenhouse gases have been responsible for global warming and climate change, a perpetual subject of global and national public discourse, air pollution has increasingly been recognised as a public health menace, especially in the urban parts of the country. In fact, our country has repeatedly been ranked as one of the most polluted in the world. According to a report, pollution and the resultant range of conditions such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases and neonatal diseases claimed the lives of over 1.67 million Indians in 2019 alone.

Auto LPG is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly

Cleaner alternatives such as auto LPG are not only relatively inexpensive from a common man’s financial standpoint but also less polluting and therefore less damaging to his health. The cost of auto LPG comes out to be 40 to 50 percent cheaper as compared to petrol and diesel. Then, with a zero Global Warming Potential (GWP) as against carbon dioxide’s 1 and methane’s excessive 25, auto LPG is far less polluting for our mobility needs. A test comparing petrol and auto LPG emissions has revealed that the latter contributed to 52 percent lesser carbon monoxides and 47 percent total hydrocarbons than petrol. In addition, an auto gas-run vehicle emits up to 120 times lesser particulate emissions and 96 percent lesser nitrogen dioxides than diesel (68 percent lesser compared to petrol).

Therefore, the government should immediately prepare a policy blueprint setting in motion a country-wide taking to auto LPG as a mobility fuel. Shifting the fuel from the present GST slab of 18 percent to 5 percent as well as bringing down the conversion kits from a prohibitive 28 percent to a lower GST slab would be encouraging the first set of measures. This would not only give respite to the common man but also serve as a booster shot to India’s fight against pollution while reducing the health burden as well as helping the broader economy. 

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