American Automobile Fuel Consumption Debate


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If someone put a gun to my head and said to come up with a plan for future energy use, that's about what I would say... except for maybe the advanced coal part... and gas is good for some purposes on the grid...and then again biomass may be carbon neutral but it's not land use neutral... and hydrogen by 2030 is optimistic... so maybe it's not exactly what I'd said. But hey, he sounds more thought out than most people who try to talk on the subject.

The 30-40% number for losses is shocking. I wonder how much is losses from out-dated equipment and how much is theft.

Anup, how about a little more insight on the role of the President. If he is just ceremonial, is the speech hot air? Will Parliament feel pressured to follow through on requests? What is the likeliness of implementation?


EIA International Energy Outlook cites:

The burden of subsidies is amplified by inadequate revenue collection systems and outright theft of electricity. For example, in 2002 India’s regional electricity companies lost $5.3 billion.
2004 Energy outlook cites that losses are as high as 50% in some regions.

I do not know the split between actual T&D losses, and theft. I have seen figures of about 22-28% losses attributed to T&D. I would not be surprised if around 10% was theft. Add to that the subsidies, and you may begin to understand why most state electricity boards are either bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy.

As for the role of the President, his advice is not always binding on the government. The real power of the government lies in the hand of the Prime Minister. India's current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is an Oxford educated Economist. An influential policy person in India who has spoken with the Prime Minister told me that Dr. Singh understands the magnitude of India's energy challenge. My perception is that understanding may not translate in to action. The current Indian government is dependent on Communist parties for support. So aggressive economic and policy decisions on most fronts are unlikely. The PM himself has promised reform with a human face (which in this case would mean subsidies are here to stay). Although, I must say that in the vision outlined by the President there seems to ample opportunity for log rolling. I will be following this with quite a bit of interest.


Though the role of the President in the Executive is rather limited, Dr Kalam happens to be highly influential and popular in the country. In fact more so than any other, at least in the last 20 years. Somewhere in the beginning of his speech he said this, "Dear citizens, on 26th January 2005, I have discussed with you on the potential for employment generation in eight areas. I am happy that a number of actions are evolving.". I noted one such action here:

About "transmission losses" there was a follow-up mention by the Prime Minister in his Independence Day address the next day, when he clarified that power should be treated like petrol or diesel and people must expect to pay. Implementation may remain an issue, but not just because of the Left parties.

I also was impressed that Dr Kalam mentioned Solar power over wind (which is all the rage right now). In terms of medium-term potential there is no comparison, even though we recieve just 2 billionth of the sun's energy. He also mentioned fusion, but even if we get a stake in the ITER the first commercial reactor is some 50 years away.

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