Auto LPG as a viable and immediate solution for cleaner environment

In a nutshell, the adoption of auto LPG can address the transport component of the climate change challenge that the country faces.

Auto LPG as a viable and immediate solution for cleaner environment

Climate change has been one of the most pressing challenges confronting humanity for decades now. Yet, despite countries and governments repeatedly pledging and making commitments, how much tangible has actually been accomplished, is still open to question. Yet, from the inception of UNFCCC and the organization of Rio Earth Summit in the early 1990s, to the adoption of Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to the historic Paris Agreement in 2015 and the subsequent Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) announced by individual countries, climate change as a global movement has come a long distance. Even as we look forward to containing the planet’s surface temperature to well below 20C or preferably under 1.50C compared to pre-industrial levels as mandated by Paris, most experts are skeptical on the prospects of achieving that target despite countries meeting their NDC obligations.

Tackling transport sector pollution can be a great start

However for a developing economy such as India, which is still more carbon-dependent for its growth and is likely to continue to do so in the coming future, as compared to developed economies, it will take a considerable time for a complete shift to non-fossil fuels for the industrial sector, power generation, mining and the commercial sector. Against the limitations in these sectors, the transport the sector appears to be a low-hanging fruit from climate change as well as economic output standpoint.

The fact that transport sector in the country contributes to nearly 14% of CO2 emissions and 60% of all greenhouse gases, a predominant contributor to climate change must also prompt due attention to it. In another estimate attesting to 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 staggering 1,041% increase. Equally important is that of all transport-related pollution, nearly 95% comes from road transport in the country. With this backdrop, one of the pathways to limit India’s GHG emissions are to bring in alternative fuels such as auto LPG as a regular fuel for our vehicles on the roads in the immediate term replacing the heavily GHG-emitting petrol and diesel.

Petrol & diesel damaging for climate change

In addition to air pollutants, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides, each of which is hugely responsible for climate change, have been some of the chief GHG constituents of vehicular emissions. It is estimated that a regular passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. In another estimate, about 3.8 liters of the burning of petrol emits a little more than 9 a kilogram of GHGs. That amounts to roughly 6 to 9 tons of GHGs each year for a typical vehicle. Although the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide N2O are lower in quantity than CO2, they are critical since they possess a higher global warming potential. While diesel is usually said to give off lesser CO2 than petrol, it emits a higher amount of particulates and soot. A study has advanced the grim figure that 66% of transport-related deaths in India were caused by diesel vehicles.

How auto LPG far surpasses petrol and diesel

Not only is auto LPG is considerably inexpensive as compared to the ever-skyrocketing petrol and diesel prices, from an environmental and climate change standpoint too, it is far cleaner and therefore superior to petrol and diesel. Besides being 40-50% cheaper than conventional fuels, auto LPG has a global warming potential (GWP) the factor of zero as declared by no less than the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). When compared against CO2’s 1 and methane’s 25, auto LPG emerges as a clear winner in terms of global warming and therefore its role in mitigating climate change. In comparison to most hydrocarbons, LPG generates lower amounts of carbon dioxide per amount of heat produced. According to data, compared to petrol, LPG emits 75% less Carbon Monoxide, 85% less hydrocarbons, 40% less oxides of Nitrogen, and has 87% less ozone-forming potential. Similarly compared to diesel, it gives off 60% less carbon dioxide, 90% less particulates and oxides of Nitrogen and has 70% less ozone-forming potential.

Urban India reeling under vehicular pollution: big cities with higher carbon footprint

Although the country as a whole has been at the receiving end of ever-rising pollution levels, urban India has mainly borne the brunt of vehicular pollution. While holding the dubious distinction of being one of the top-ranked polluted countries globally, India hosts one of the most significant numbers of polluted cities on the planet. And one of the major reasons behind city pollution has often been ascribed to emissions from the ever-rising number of vehicles on Indian roads. In an estimate, vehicles in major metropolitan cities account for 70% of Carbon Monoxide, 50% of hydrocarbons, 30-40% of Nitrogen Oxides, 30% of suspended particulate matter and 10% of Sulphur dioxide of total pollution load, of which, two-thirds is contributed by two-wheelers alone. In fact, urban India is more responsible for GHGs than rural India. A study points out that megacities such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai or Kolkata have a carbon footprint above the national average of 0.56 ton CO2 per capita.

How the world is taking to auto LPG

India needs to take a leaf out of the rest of the world’s vehicular fuel policies. From South Korea, the model economy from Asia to Turkey, a developed economy aspiring for an EU membership to Russia, Australia, Japan, USA, and China, they have all adopted auto LPG as a part of their overall vehicular fuel mix. While South Korea is the largest auto LPG consumer, 40% of private vehicles in Turkey run on auto LPG. However on a rather grim note, against the global consumption of 26 million tonnes of LPG, India consumes a measly 0.35 million tonnes of the alternative clean fuel.

In a nutshell, the adoption of auto LPG can address the transport component of the climate change challenge that the country faces. As such, a favorable policy climate such as lower GST rates on conversion kits and relaxation in Type approval norms must be provided. So far, India has proved itself to be a committed climate change participant according to Climate Tracker, an independent government climate action monitor. India is one of the few countries classified as 20C compatible in line with Paris’s goals. However, we need to do more and do it quickly.

Author: Suyash Gupta, Director General, Indian Auto LPG Coalition

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First published on: 14-08-2021 at 17:10 IST