x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Air Bag: UAE petrol prices must rise if we're serious about going green

It's up to the government to tell us what to do, just as it is their responsibility to stop us from driving too fast.

This week, you'll read about a group of people in California that have decided to take environmental matters into their owns hands - and into the tanks of their cars. These biodiesel aficionados, who range from those simply buying the fuel to the more adventurous types who produce it or tinker on cars to burn it, are an unconventional sort of lot, the type that like to roll up their sleeves and get things done their way. They think differently from most other people, and they form a tight-knit community that helps each other out.

In fact, that attitude isn't unheard of in the motoring world. Many people take their own road, so to speak, when it comes to finding alternatives to petrol-powered transportation, and they often find other people out there that share their views and interests. Take hypermilers, for instance; these obsessive drivers try to squeeze as many kilometres as they can out of as little fuel as possible from their vehicles. They go so far as to take off their shoes when driving for better pedal sensitivity, or installing a fuel gauge with real-time data for instant reaction, or even turning off the engine to glide down the road without burning petrol. On countless websites, such as ecomodder.com or cleanmpg.com, they congregate to share ideas, tips and car modifications and to even compete against each other for better fuel economy numbers.

So, yes, a lot of these people are, how shall I say, "different". But that's why they form such close, friendly communities. Just like the uncool kids in school, these people know that, when it comes to environmental activism, they are on the outside looking in. Even numbering in the thousands, they make up a relatively small group of people who care about making real change with their cars and are willing to do something about it, versus a world full of apathy and laziness.

Harsh, yes. But let's face it, no matter how much lip service is applied to cleaning up our tail pipes and carbon footprints (or tyre tracks, in this case), the vast majority of us will continue to purchase the biggest, most powerful, most luxurious cars we can afford. And so, it's up to the government to tell us what to do, just as it is their responsibility to stop us from driving too fast. And more than any government incentives or strategies, there is only one sure-fire way to make a serious dent in a country's motorway emissions -raising the price of fuel.

High petrol prices are proven to make an almost immediate change on the roads of any country. Europe's sky-high prices have forced people to drive small, economical diesel cars; the US's relatively low prices have its citizens driving a mix of mid-sized saloons and pickup trucks. And how many people do you know who moved to the UAE and bought a giant SUV because they could finally afford to drive one?

It's an unpopular move, but if anybody is serious about cutting emissions, it has to be done. And if the public starts to demand an alternative to high-priced petrol, than maybe biodiesel might take off, or car makers will start to incorporate some hypermiling ideas. And maybe those crazy obsessives won't seem so crazy after all.