Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Daily Snapshot Of Carbon Usage In Figures

Graphic showing the consumption of CO2 per person per year in various regions around the world, ahead of an IPCC report on climate change. Graphic courtesy AFP.
by Anne Chaon  
Paris (AFP) Jan 23, 2007

Greenhouse-gas pollution, the driver for dangerous global warming, is all around us -- and almost as invisible are the huge disparities in individual emissions around the world and carbon cost of the things we buy. For instance, the average American, whose lifestyle is based on profligate burning of oil, gas and coal, causes nearly 10 times more carbon pollution than the average Kenyan. And a bottle of champagne costs 1.7 kilos (3.75 pounds) in carbon -- the pollution emitted by machinery to cultivate the vines, grow and treat the grapes, produce, fill and store the bottle and transport it to a shop where it is sold.
The world's biggest single polluter is the United States, which by itself accounts for about a quarter of global emissions of greenhouse gases, followed by China.
Here is a snapshot in figures of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, according to lifestyle, product and sector:
PER CAPITA CO2 (Source: International Energy Agency, IEA. Figures are in tonnes of CO2 per person per year)
- North America: United States 19.5 tonnes; Canada 17; Mexico 3.7
- Europe: Germany 10.2 tonnes; Britain 9.1; France 6.4
- Asia-Pacific: Australia 17.1 tonnes; New Zealand 8.3; China 3.2; India 1; Bangladesh 0.2
- Middle East-North Africa: Saudi Arabia 13.3 tonnes; Algeria 2.5
- Africa: South Africa 8.2 tonnes; Kenya 0.2
POLLUTION PER ACTIVITY (On the basis of a western Europe lifestyle, where one litre of petrol, or gasoline, causes 2.7 kilos (5.9 pounds) of CO2. Source: Jean-Marc Jancovici, French climate and energy consultant)
- One year of car driving (14,000 kilometers, 8,750 miles): 3.78 tonnes of CO2
- Return flight Paris-New York, second class: 1.6 tonnes of CO2
- One year's lighting for average-sized home: Depends on energy source, varying from four kilos (8.8 pounds) of CO2 for hydro to 400 kilos (880 pounds) for coal-fired plant.
- One year's heating oil for 100m2 (1,076-square-feet) dwelling: 4.86 tonnes of CO2.
- One kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef, cooked and ready to eat: 3.7 kilos (8.14 pounds) of CO2. Figure includes proportionate cost of making tractor and agriculture chemicals, does not include greenhouse-gas emissions from cows and fertilisers.
- One kilo (2.2 pounds) of locally-caught fish: 1.6 kilos (3.5 pounds) of CO2
- One kilo (2.2 pounds) of ocean-caught tuna: 3.2 kilos (7.04 pounds) of CO2
- One kilo (2.2 pounds) of prawns (shrimp): 8 kilos (17.6 pounds) of CO2
- One bottle of champagne: 1.7 kilos (3.75 pounds) of CO2
- US- or Asian-made flat screen for computer: 1.3 tonnes (2.9 pounds) of CO2
- Power production: 40 percent
- Transport: 21 percent
- Industry: 17 percent
- Buildings: 14 percent
- Other sectors: 8 percent.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Report calls for radical redesign of cities to cope with population growth

Alok Jha, science correspondent,

Megacities on the Move report says authorities must start planning their transport infrastructure now for a future when two thirds of the world's population will live in cities
Moving away from car ownership, using real-time traffic information to help plan journeys and having more virtual meetings will be vital to prevent the megacities of the future from becoming dysfunctional and unpleasant places to live, according to a study by the environmental think tank Forum for the Future.
The report argues that authorities must begin to plan now in order to create easier and more sustainable ways of accessing goods and services in the world's ever-growing cities. Citizens must also be encouraged to change their behaviour to keep cities liveable.
By 2040, the world's urban population is expected to have grown from 3.5bn to 5.6bn. The new report calls for a radical re-engineering of cities' infrastructure to cope. "The future is going to look pretty urban ... with more and more people shifting to cities to the point that, by 2040, we're going to have two thirds of all the people in the world living in cities," said Ivana Gazibara, senior strategic adviser at Forum for the Future and an author of the report, Megacities on the Move.
"If we go on with business as usual, what happens is unmanageable levels of congestion because personal car ownership has proliferated," she said. "Cities could be a pretty nasty place to live for the two-thirds of the global population in the next 30 years if we don't act on things like climate change mitigation and adaptation, smarter use of resources and sorting out big systemic things like urban mobility."
The report looked at transport, but not just moving from A to B. "It's about accessibility and productivity and interaction," said Gazibara. "Those are things you can do through physical interaction but you don't have to.."
One issue is to integrate different modes of transport: citizens will want to walk, cycle, access public transport, drive personal vehicles or a mixture of all modes in one journey. "Information technology is going to be incredibly important in all of this, in terms of better integrating and connecting physical modes of transport," said Gazibara. "But we're also going to see lots more user-centred ICT [information and communication technology] so it makes it easier for us to access things virtually."
She said there are already cars that have integrated hardware allowing them to communicate with each other and central traffic hubs. By collecting and centralising information of this kind, city authorities could manage traffic information in real time and help speed up people's journeys. And better "telepresence" systems for virtual meetings could remove the need for some journeys altogether.
The trickiest part, though, could be getting citizens themselves to take part. "We have the technological solutions, whether it's alternative drive-trains for vehicles or sophisticated IT – the real challenge will be scaling it in a meaningful way," said Gazibara.
City planning will also be important, she said, creating self-contained neighbourhoods where everything is accessible by walking or cycling.
The report also highlights examples of good practice that are already in use. Vancouver, for example, has recognised that many of its inhabitants will use several modes of transport in one journey, so city planners have widened pedestrian crossings, built more cycle lanes and provided cycle racks on buses.
For the future, Gazibara pointed to innovative car-sharing schemes such as the CityCar concept, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with "stackable" electric cars lined up near transport hubs. These could be rented out for short journeys within city limits. They could also store power at night, when renewable sources might be generating electricity that would otherwise have to be dumped.
Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Richard Dyer agreed that action was needed now to make cities more sustainable. "Tackling climate change must be at the heart of building a greener, fairer future – and local people must have their say. New technologies will be part of the solution, but rising populations and the urgent need to cut carbon emissions mean that we also need policies that reduce the need to travel, cut car use and make walking and cycling the first choice for short journeys. Alongside green energy and better insulation for our homes, this will make our cities healthier, more pleasant and vibrant places to live – and will create new jobs too."
Gazibara said city authorities needed to start taking the issues more seriously. "[There are] far too many places where cities that are acknowledging climate change as a threat continue to build more roads, continue to provide incentives to more car ownership and more driving. That's something that will fundamentally need © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nations again try to bridge rich-poor climate gap


29 November, 2010.  Associated Press

 An aerostatics balloon of the environmental group Greenpeace is seen next to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.  - AP

 (AP) -- World governments begin another attempt Monday to overcome the disconnect between rich and poor nations on fighting global warming, with evidence mounting that the Earth's climate already is changing in ways that will affect both sides of the wealth divide.
During two weeks of talks, the 193-nation U.N. conference hopes to conclude agreements that will clear the way to mobilize billions of dollars for developing countries and give them to help them shift from affecting .
After a disappointing summit last year in Copenhagen, no hope remains of reaching an overarching deal this year setting legal limits on how much major countries would be allowed to pollute. Such an accord was meant to describe a path toward slashing by mid-century, when scientists say they should be half of today's levels.
Eighty-five countries have made specific pledges to reduce emissions or constrain their growth, but those promises amount to far less than required to keep temperatures from rising to potentially dangerous levels.
The recriminations that followed the Danish summit have raised questions over whether the unwieldy U.N. negotiations, which require at least tacit agreement from every nation, can ever work.
But Christiana Figueres, the top U.N. climate official, said world capitals are aware of both a growing environmental and political urgency. "Governments need to prove that the intergovernmental process can deliver," she said Sunday.
"They know that they can do it. They know that they need to compromise. I'm not saying it's a done deal. It's still going to be a heavy lift," she said.
About 15,000 negotiators, environmental activists, businessmen and journalists are convening at a resort complex under elaborate security precautions, including naval warships a few hundred yards (meters) offshore in the .
While delegates haggle over the wording, timing and dollar figures involved in any agreement, scientists and political activists at the conference will be offering the latest indications of the planet's warming. Some 250 presentations are planned on the sidelines of the negotiations.
Meteorologists are likely to report that 2010 will end up tied for the hottest year globally since records began 131 years ago.
The U.N. scientific body that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its climate change report, which called global warming "unequivocal" and almost certainly caused by human activity, is expected to tell the conference its findings and warnings of potential disasters are hopelessly out of date.
Agronomists are due to report on shifting weather patterns that are destabilizing the world's food supply and access to clean water, and that could lead to mass migrations as farmers flee drought or flood-prone regions.
As often during the three-year process, attention will focus on the United States and China, key protagonists representing the industrialized and developing world.
U.S. negotiators may feel further constrained from showing flexibility toward the Chinese after the Republican swing in this month's congressional elections, which brought dozens of new legislators who doubt the seriousness of climate change.
The U.S. has insisted it will agree to binding pollution limits only if China also accepts legal limitations. China, now the world's biggest polluter but also the biggest investor in renewable energy, rejects international limits, saying it still needs to overcome widespread poverty and bears no historic responsibility for the problem.
But Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who became head of the U.N. climate secretariat in July, said the public argument may appear more bitter than it really is. At the most recent round of talks last October, "they were working very constructively with each other inside the negotiations," she said.
©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mayors sign global pact to tackle urban emissions

By Matthew Knight for CNN
November 22, 2010 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)

World mayors met in Mexico City on Sunday to commit to regular reporting of urban emissions data and mitigation strategies.


* World Mayors Summit on Climate commits city leaders to coordinated climate fight

*138 mayors have signed the "Mexico City Pact" to combat urban emissions
* Pact "shows national governments that it's possible to have commitments"
* CNN iReporter interviews Mexico City's secretary for the environment

London, England (CNN) -- Mayors from around the world have signed a voluntary pact committing them to reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions at a climate summit in Mexico City.

The "Mexico City Pact," which was signed at the World Mayors Summit on Climate, has attracted the signatures of 138 mayors from some the world's largest urban areas including Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Paris, Vancouver and Jakarta.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mayor of the Mexico City and chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change said in a statement: "The world's cities must join together and put their data in the same pot."

With over half the world's population now living in cities, Ebrard says "mayors and urban leaders are on the frontline of the planet's fight against a changing climate."

"Mayors and urban leaders are on the frontline of the planet's fight against a changing climate
--Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City Mayor

A key component of the pact is the creation of a monitoring and verification mechanism called the "carbonn Cities Climate Registry" (cCCR) which will be operated by Germany's Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting.

The cCCR is designed to create uniformity in reporting of urban greenhouse gas emissions as well as keep track of local projects which combat climate change. City residents will be able to track how their city is performing and compare the results against other cities around the world.

Elizabeth Gateau, secretary general of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) said in a statement: "The cCCR is a platform wherein cities can work together. Cities are ahead of the game of nations and are leading the global process combating climate change. The cCCR will be the official reporting mechanism of this leadership."

Speaking at the Mexico City summit Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), welcomed the new cCCR mechanism saying it would "facilitate transparency and accountability of local climate actions and help local governments to demonstrate leadership in climate action."

She added that subjecting cities to open and independent reviews is a "critical step for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of emission reductions over long-term lines."

Five "pioneer" cities, including Mexico City and Cape Town, South Africa, have already begun reporting some of key actions, commitments and performances. Sample reports can be viewed here.

The summit, convened by the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) and UCLG, took place just days before U.N. climate talks get underway in Cancun, Mexico.

On the eve of the mayors summit CNN iReporter Percy von Lipinski interviewed Martha Delgado, Mexico City's secretary for the environment.

"Last year in Copenhagen we realized that cities have a lot of opportunities and a lot of political will to fight against climate change. The Mayor of Mexico, as chairman of the World Mayors Council, asked his colleagues how to fight climate change and they decided to organize the World Mayor Climate Summit," Delgado told von Lipinski.

"Everyone is very excited to participate in this summit because they think that they are going to show national governments that it is possible to have commitments," Delgado said.

Cities have a great capacity to address climate change, despite the absence of a legally binding global treaty between nations, Delgado says. By convening the Mexico City summit mayors from all over the world are demonstrating leadership and their commitment to lowering emissions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Latinos, Asians more worried about environment than whites, poll finds

The survey examined attitudes on such issues as global warming, air pollution and tainted soil and water.

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

November 20, 2010

California's Latino and Asian voters are significantly more concerned about core environmental issues, including global warming, air pollution and contamination of soil and water, than white voters, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll.

For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.

Times/USC poll: An article in the Nov. 20 LATExtra section about a Los Angeles Times/USC poll of Latino and Asian voters' views on environmental issues identified the Southern California director of the California League of Conservation Voters as David Smallwood. His name is David Allgood. —

Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites.

The poll surveyed 1,689 adults by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

"Latinos and Asians are far more likely to be registered as Democrats than whites, and Democrats hold these views more closely," said Peyton Craighill, who supervised the poll.

Beyond that, their feelings reflect a fact of life in California: "Environmental hazards are a part of the everyday lives of Asian American and Latino voters who are disproportionately represented in locations with high levels of pollution and contaminants," said Jane Junn, a professor of political science at USC and research director of the poll.

"While these results may at first seem surprising, this survey by the L.A. Times and USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences allowed voters to answer questions in their native languages — Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean," she added. "And a large number of Asian American and Latino voters were interviewed in order to increase the reliability of the findings."

California has one of the nation's largest concentrations of minorities living near hazardous chemical wastes and air pollution produced by refineries, port operations, freeway traffic and railroads. An analysis of census data by researchers at four universities for the United Church of Christ showed that 1.2 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, 91% of them minorities, live less than two miles from facilities handling hazardous materials such as chrome-plating businesses and battery recycling centers.

Latinos make up 37% of the state's population, Asians are 12.5%, whites are 41.5% and African Americans are 5.8%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African Americans were included in the survey, but the number of people questioned was too low to analyze reliably.

The survey's findings are no surprise to environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and the California League of Conservation Voters. The groups' own surveys have shown that Latinos and Asians — two of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the state — share serious concerns about the environment.

These organizations have historically relied mostly on white constituencies for donations and influence in crafting and promoting legislation aimed at protecting the environment and cleaning up pollution.

Now they are aggressively reaching out to ethnically diverse communities to gain financial support and inspire a new generation of environmental stewards. Because these communities are more directly affected by pollution, the strategy makes sense, the groups say.

"We spend the vast majority of our resources in districts that are dominated by, or have substantial, Latino and Asian populations," said David Smallwood, Southern California director of the California League of Conservation Voters. "Their concerns will help us build broader support for aggressively dealing with global warming."

Dan Taylor, director of public policy for California Audubon, agreed.

"The poll's findings are a clear expression of the direct threat environmental carelessness presents to the health of these families and their communities," he said. "If we are going to get anywhere with an environmental or wildlife-focused agenda we have to partner with the Latino leadership in the Legislature, or we're not going to win. It's that simple."

State Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) suggested that Latinos and Asians are also concerned about environmental issues because "they either came from countries such as Mexico or China where there are serious pollution issues, or they have relatives who did. They don't want neighborhoods in our country to be like the ones they left back home."

Poll respondents who agreed in advance to be interviewed generally supported Mendoza's basic argument.

"It's getting bad out there when it comes to pollution, global warming and clean water," said Elizabeth Olivares, 24, of Stockton. "We are destroying our world little by little. I have a little brother and two nephews and worry about their future."

About 69% of Latino voters and 49% of Asian voters polled said they personally worry a great deal about having enough water to meet future needs, compared with 40% of white voters, the poll found.

Jason Padilla, 26, of Riverside said he was certain that minorities would become increasingly engaged in environmental issues.

"We're stepping up and saying, 'Hey, we live, hike, camp, fish and play here too,' " Padilla said. "We're getting involved to help make changes that are morally and ethically right and benefit everybody."

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

RON 97 price hike hits high-end users

The Star Online

November 3, 2010

PETALING JAYA: The five-sen hike of RON 97 petrol to RM2.15 per litre from yesterday has mostly affected a small group of luxury car owners and those who favour its performance capabilities compared to the more affordable RON 95 which is still sold at RM1.85 per litre.

Animation designer Joey Khor, 32, who drives a 3.5-litre Nissan Fairlady sports car, said he might have to sell his car if the petrol cost becomes too hard to bear.

“I am already spending RM150 for a full tank, which will last me around three to four days. That means RM300 in a week, and RM1,200 spent on petrol in a month,” he added.

Car mechanic Novie Ismail, 34, said he spends about RM400 a month on petrol for his three cars: Volvo 24 SE, Proton Satria and Charade Aura.

“I’ll just have to bear with the RON 97 price hike as I feel that RON 95 affects the performance of my cars. The engines sound rougher and generate less power,” he said.

Meanwhile, Petrol Dealers Association Malaysia president Datuk Hashim Othman said the price increase was a natural consequence of rising oil prices in the international market.

He estimated that about 75% to 80% of motorists were RON 95 users and would thus remain unaffected.

“Don’t be too upset by the controlled float (of RON 97), as the Government plays an important role in ensuring that the oil companies do not hike petrol prices drastically,” said Hashim, pointing out that RON 97 sells for around RM3.80 per litre in Thailand.

“The public should be aware that the Government does not impose any tax on the sale of RON 97 but does not subsidise it either,” he said.

The previous petrol price hike, which took effect on July 16, was part of the Government’s effort to save an estimated RM750 million a year.

Deputy Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim told the Dewan Rakyat that the price increase reflected the global price increase of fuel and announcements would not be made in the future about price changes.

She added that a committee comprising officials from the Finance Ministry and her ministry would monitor and determine the price since RON 97 was subjected to a managed float.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nations agree historic deal to save nature

31 October 2010 - The Star Online

By Chisa Fujioka and David Fogarty

NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) - Nearly 200 nations agreed on Saturday to a sweeping plan to stem the loss of species by setting new 2020 targets to ensure greater protection of nature and enshrine the benefits it gives mankind.
Japan's Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto (C) holds the gavel, as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf (R) claps, after closing the plenary session of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) past midnight in Nagoya, Japan October 30, 2010. (REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao)

Environment ministers from around the globe also agreed on rules for sharing the benefits from genetic resources from nature between governments and companies, a trade and intellectual property issue that could be worth billions of dollars in new funds for developing nations.

Agreement on parts of the deal has taken years of at times heated negotiations, and talks in the Japanese city of Nagoya were deadlocked until the early hours of Saturday after two weeks of talks.

Delegates agreed goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers as the world faces the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago.

They also agreed to take steps to put a price on the value of benefits such as clean water from watersheds and coastal protection by mangroves by including such "natural capital" into national accounts.

Services provided by nature to economies were worth trillions of dollars a year, the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said in a statement, adding businesses from banks to miners were key in halting rapid loss of ecosystems.

"These goals recognize and value the irreplaceable benefits that nature provides to people in the form of food, fuel, fiber, fodder and freshwater that everyone depends on," Andrew Deutz, director of international government relations for U.S.-based The Nature Conservancy, told Reuters.

Graphic on biodiversity hotspots, click

Delegates and greens said the outcome would send a positive signal to troubled U.N. climate negotiations that have been become bogged down by a split between rich and poor nations over how to share the burden in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

U.N. climate talks resume in Mexico in a month.


"We're delighted there's been a successful outcome to these long and tortuous negotiations and I think it shows that these multilateral negotiations can deliver a good result," said Peter Cochrane, head of Australia's delegation in Nagoya.

Delegates agreed to a 20-point strategic plan to protect fish stocks, fight the loss and degradation of natural habitats and to conserve larger land and marine areas.

They also set a broader 2020 "mission" to take urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity.

Nations agreed to protect 17 percent of land and inland waters and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Currently, 13 percent of land and 1 percent of oceans are protected for conservation.

The third part of the deal, the Nagoya Protocol on genetic resources, has taken nearly 20 years to agree and sets rules governing how nations manage and share benefits derived from forests and seas to create new drugs, crops or cosmetics.

The protocol could unlock billions of dollars for developing countries, where much of the world's natural riches remain.

"The protocol is really, really a victory," Brazil's Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told reporters.

It will also mean changes for businesses.

"This isn't a boring protocol. It will regulate billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical industry," said Tove Ryding, policy adviser for biodiversity and climate change for Greenpeace.

Karl Falkenberg, head of the European Commission's environment department, said it would also fight poverty.

"We finally have something that is going to give great results for the environment, for the poor people," who will be able to earn money in exchange for access to genetic materials, he said after the talks ended.

Delegates and greens had feared the ill-feeling that pervaded climate negotiations after last December's acrimonious meeting in Copenhagen would derail the talks in Nagoya.

"There's been a mood of change. I think the failure of the Copenhagen meeting last year perhaps has meant a new realisation that we need to more flexible in negotiations," said Jane Smart, director of conservation policy for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taking care with mega projects

Saturday October 23, 2010 - The Star Online

IT’S common during times of economic slack for the Government to push for projects to get activity up to provide jobs and incomes for people.

It was economist John Maynard Keynes, who is now fashionable again, who famously said that the economy would be better off during a depression if all workers did was to dig up ditches and fill them up again.

Sometimes, governments tend to take that statement too literally forgetting that for small open economies it is not possible to print money without disastrous consequences on the currency rate, inflation and investment.

Keynes’ statement must be taken with a pinch of salt given that there is a limited amount of government resources that can be put into stimulus packages. The most has to be obtained from the limited amount the Government ploughs into these projects.

Each ringgit must count and the leakage in terms of both over-pricing as well as foreign sourcing of goods and services must be limited as much as possible so that maximum benefits accrue to local industry and enterprise and creates jobs for Malaysians.

It is not always easy to do that. Take the mass rapid transit system (MRT) for instance. At an estimated cost of RM40bil, it’s a very massive project, even if it is undertaken over 10 years with all the potential for costs to increase the further out into the future it goes.

That it will have major benefits in terms of moving people around and in Kuala Lumpur and the vicinity, reducing traffic congestion, enhancing the quality of life, etc, cannot be denied. But if it is not properly planned, designed and executed it could become a major disaster and fall far short of the expectations.

Economically, there will be plenty of leakage from this project. Trains and tracks will be ordered from overseas and could account for 30% or more of the cost. Tunnelling will be highly automated and use a lot of expensive equipment sourced from outside the country.

Labour is likely to be largely foreign as well as expertise. The rest of the remaining costs are likely to be for acquisition of land and other civil works. The latter has little impact on economic growth.

Thus, while the RM40bil figure is huge, the final contribution to the economy in terms of production of goods and services will be smaller than expected even if we take into account the multiplier effect.

This theorises that spending of a sum in the economy enlarges the economy by more than the amount spent. But if there is high leakage of project costs to outside the country, that’s not going to happen.

It is imperative that much more thought is given to the project. There is no hurry to get it off the ground – or under the ground in this case! – given the huge capital expenditure involved. Considering that nowhere in the world is an MRT profitable, we must expect that the Government will in one way or another bear this burden.

Meantime, authorities should focus on other ways to get traffic down during rush hour. Car-pooling will work if there is incentive and punishment to get it going. You need to have a surcharge on cars going into congested areas for instance and for existing public transport to improve.

Ditto for the rapid train to Singapore. If you can open Subang airport to flights to Singapore in a big way and allow boarding 15 minutes before departure for passengers without check-in baggage, you can get people to Singapore in an hour or so. That will be quite comparable with a rapid train – without all that expense, last estimated at a whopping RM8bil.

Finally, all that hooha over Permodalan Nasional Bhd’s (PNB) RM5 billion plan to put up a 100-story tower between Merdeka Stadium and Stadium Negara seems a bit overplayed considering the project will span 10 years.

But what is worrisome is the question of why the tower needs 100 storeys, to be built at much greater expense per square foot. Is it really true that you need such height to attract interest? There are examples of many projects around the world much shorter than that but which are considered to be of high quality and which attract plenty of interest.

PNB should be more forthcoming with what it plans to do and how it will make it something the nation can be proud of with – and this is important – minimal cost.

● Managing editor P Gunasegaram does not like the word “iconic”. It does not say much but conveys unambiguously one important message – expensive.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Subsidy Rationalisation Gets Various Reaction

July 16, 2010 00:55 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 (Bernama)-- The subsidy rationalisation for several items such as sugar and fuel which was announced Thursday was welcomed by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Dr David Quek said the reduction in the sugar subsidy by 25 sen per kilo would give a positive effect to the people's health with the ensuing reduction in sugar consumption.

"There has been a significant increase in the number of diabetic patients. A study in 2006 found that between 14 and 15 per cent of Malaysians suffer from diabetes compared with seven to eight per cent 10 years ago," he said when contacted.

He said the increase clearly showed the declining state of health and that the people were less concerned about health care.

"As such, we support this increase for the sake of public health, and we hope the people can reduce sugar consumption," he said.

Federation of Sundry Goods Merchants Associations of Malaysia's president Lean Hing Chuan also expressed a similar sentiment like Dr David.

"When the government increases the price of sugar, people will consume less sugar and that will reduce diabetes cases," he said.

He added that despite the 25 sen 'adjustment' sugar price here is among the cheapest in the region compared with Thailand and Indonesia (RM3/kg) and Singapore (RM3.60/kg).

FOMCA president Datuk N. Marimuthu meanwhile, said the 5 sen increase for RON95 petrol would not really burden the consumers.

"We must welcome such initiatives if the money saved from subsidy is used for other beneficial purposes," he told Bernama when contacted here Thursday.

Marimuthu said Malaysians are still fortunate since petrol price in the country was still among the cheapest compared with India, Singapore, the Philippines or United Kingdom.

Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) executive secretary Datuk Paduka Nadzim Johan said a transparent subsidy system must be put in place to ensure only those who are eligible for such benefits.

"We do not agree if subsidies, especially for gas, enjoyed by the rich too," said Nadzim.

Nadzim said the people must not continue to depend on subsidies for basic essential items and start looking for alternatives.

"We (Malaysia) and Thailand are almost equal. But why can't we grow our own vegetables like cabbage, chili or others instead of importing such items from other countries," he said.


Malaysia CPI for June jumps 1.7pc

By Rupa Damodaran

MALAYSIA'S Consumer Price Index (CPI) for June grew 1.7 per cent year-on-year, in line with expectations, indicating the central bank may be done with raising its key interest rate.

Bank Negara Malaysia has raised the main interest rate three times this year as keeping the cost of borrowings at very low levels could stoke inflation.

The latest figures show that inflationary pressures in Malaysia are still mild, economists said.

The Statistics Department said yesterday the index expanded from 111.8 to 113.7 during the month, with food and non-alcoholic beverages posting a 2.7 per cent increase.

Compared with May, the index increased by 0.2 per cent while for the first half of the year, the CPI grew by 1.6 per cent.

Standard Chartered Bank economist Alvin Liew said food-related price increases were again the key contributor to the CPI in June from 1.6 per cent in May.

But HSBC Bank Asian economist Wellian Wiranto said the pace of the food price increases was rather mild and he expects seasonal factors like Ramadan and festivities to spark a temporary increase.

Economists don't think inflation would jump due to the recent increase in the price of sugar and petrol although they expect the "modest" subsidy cuts to continue this year.

"Although last week's move signals the government's intention in removing subsidies, the pace that they adopted also indicates to us that they are much more likely to proceed in 'baby steps' rather than in a 'great leap forward' fashion - not least because they are ever-vigilant on the potential political repercussions," Wellian said.

First round of cuts

The Star Online
Friday July 16, 2010

PETALING JAYA: The Government has begun its first round of a gradual subsidy rationalisation programme, promising it would have minimal impact on families.

Describing the cuts as part of a “difficult but bold” decision to reduce fiscal deficit, the Government said it would still have to spend an estimated RM7.8bil on fuel and sugar subsidies this year.

Thus, effective today, prices of petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and sugar have increased following a reduction of the subsidy.

Sugar is revised to an additional 25 sen per kg to RM1.90. LPG is up 10 sen per kg to RM1.85.

Petrol RON 95, RON 97 and diesel have gone up by five sen per liter. For RON 97, the Government has decided to withdraw the subsidy later and subject it to a managed float, where the price will be determined by an automatic pricing mechanism.

“This subsidy rationalisation will, according to estimates, allow Malaysia to reduce Government expenditure by more than RM750mil this year,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday.

Details of the changes are available on the websites of the Prime Minister’s Office and Pemandu.

The Government also said the “long-needed” economic reforms would help Malaysia maintain the strong growth it had achieved to become a developed and high-income nation.

“We have begun a planned and fair reform of a subsidy regime that for too long has been ineffective in helping those who need it most and, over time, has become a barrier to Malaysia’s progress,” the statement read.

The prices of fuel and sugar in Malaysia would still be among the lowest in the region, it said.

It also said the Government made the decision about the subsidies following robust consultations with the people, citing the thousands of Malaysians who took part in policy labs and Open Day.

“As with subsidy reform, the Budget, the Government Transformation Programme and the National Key Economic Areas, the Government has made a determined effort to engage the public, listen and learn, and then act in the best interest of the nation,” it said.

Although Malaysia had weathered the global recession well, the Government said the country could not achieve its ambition to be a high-income nation by simply managing through a crisis.

“As the Government has consistently said over recent months, we must also implement subsidy reforms that will remove distortions in the marketplace and enable us to better target our resources on those most in need, and on investments that will provide lasting benefits for Malaysians.”

It assured that the savings from the reforms would allow for resources to be better channelled for families, communities and business growth.

“Measures such as the 1Malaysia clinics, the 1Malaysia mobile clinics, as well as the scholarships for all 9A+ and deserving students – specifically those who have done well, but come from lower income families – are made possible by such reforms,” it said.

There were three main concerns which led to the subsidy rationalisation: wrong beneficiaries, wastage and abuse.

The Government also said that businesses used twice as much subsidised sugar than households, while owners of luxury cars enjoyed cheap fuel although they could afford unsubsidised prices.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Resolving BP spill will take years

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Noel L. Griese

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just before the Deepwater Horizon accident, Florida spent $200,000 on a study of offshore drilling safety that concludes: “Oil spills from offshore exploration, development, production and the transportation associated with these activities are unlikely to present a major risk to Florida.”

So much for studies.

As the editor of Energy Pipeline News, I have followed the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico with an insider’s knowledge of offshore drilling and an idea of what we can expect in the months and years ahead. Unfortunately, my background leads me to conclude that the cleanup will take years to accomplish, and compensating the victims and punishing those responsible will also take time.

Although the Deepwater Horizon may have been the first rig most Americans ever heard of, the Gulf is populated by a tangled network of 3,500 oil-drilling platforms and more than 43,000 miles of pipelines between Texas and Alabama.

The U.S. Gulf had accidents before the Deepwater Horizon burned and sank. Because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, more than 8 million gallons of oil were spilled from coastal oil facilities and some 3.3 million gallons were spilled from a tank barge when it struck a sunken oil platform. More than 600,000 gallons were spilled from U.S. offshore oil platforms and pipelines.

Testimony before congressional committees reveals that shortcuts to safety were taken on the Deepwater Horizon to save money. The rig, which was costing BP $1 million a day, was 21 days behind schedule. So corners were cut. There’s plenty of blame to go around — for responsible party BP, rig owner Transocean, cementing contractor Halliburton, federal regulators and responders.

Based on an admittedly low-ball U.S. government estimate released in late May, the BP well blowout spilled about 500,000-800,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf through May. That compares with about 3.5 million barrels spilled off shore of Mexico over nine months in 1979 by the Pemex-operated Ixtoc I well that blew out on June 3, 1979, in the second-largest accidental spill in world history. But new estimates from a government technical committee on the amount of oil released through June 3 put the BP blowout already very close to surpassing the Ixtoc I record.

Despite vast U.S. waters, only 62 federal inspectors oversee offshore drilling in the Gulf and U.S. waters along the East and West coasts. Perhaps because its regulatory arm is understaffed, the Minerals Management Service quickly granted permission for BP to take the risks that resulted in the accident.

MMS also collects about $13 billion in annual royalties from the oil industry. This dual role of collecting revenues and enforcing safety put the agency in a conflict of interest with itself. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is in the process of splitting the various MMS functions into three separate offices in an effort to minimize future conflicts of interest.

Despite our experience with the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, the response to the Deepwater Horizon spill was initially disorganized and inept. Even today, almost two months after the blowout, only a relatively few skimmers are in the Gulf cleaning up oil floating on the surface. Deployment of ocean booms to protect shorelines has been basically ineffective.

The Unified Command responding to the Gulf spill has not explained very well why supertankers are not being deployed to vacuum up oil, as was the case in the Persian Gulf some years ago. Vacuuming in the Persian Gulf was easier because the oil floated to the surface and was not broken up with dispersants.

After you suck this sort of oil into a supertanker, you wait for the oil and water to separate. Then, if there are no regulations against it, you siphon off the water and pump it back into the ocean.

Despite BP’s denials to the contrary, much if not most of the oil spilled in the Gulf is in huge plumes of droplets of oil in colloidal suspension. There are many of these plumes, which are up to 3,000 feet deep and miles long.

Normally, the heavy ends of the oil (used to make asphalt) settle on the ocean bottom. The thick, gooey oil, ranging in consistency from tar to mousse, floats on the surface.

Even if most of the Gulf could be vacuumed up into supertankers to get the droplets of oil, what would end up in the supertankers would be a tiny amount of dispersant and oil, mixed with a huge amount of water. Regulations prohibit dumping the siphoned water back into the ocean, so the responsible party (BP) would have to figure out what to do with much of the Gulf of Mexico sitting as oily water waste in supertankers. It’s doubtful that there’s enough tank capacity onshore to handle all this oily water until it is disposed of properly.

The spill may be reduced in size by various temporary measures, but stopping the oil will likely not happen until August, when two new relief drillings to intercept the blown-out well are completed. When that happens, the well will be cemented and capped.

But expect cleanup of the environment to go on for decades.

Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA and Department of Justice can fine BP up to $4,300 per barrel spilled if willful negligence is proved. Proving negligence should not be difficult.

BP is already on probation in the U.S. after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor criminal charge resulting from oil spills on Alaska’s North Slope.

The experience of the federal government in suing Exxon over the Exxon Valdez accident offers some clues about where future government lawsuits against BP are likely to head.

Less than a year after the Exxon Valdez oil spill of about 262,000 barrels (though the spill may have been larger), a federal grand jury indicted Exxon and its shipping subsidiary on five criminal violations. Exxon, facing $600 million in fines, pleaded not guilty.

In a plea bargain with the Justice Department, Exxon agreed to pay $100 million in fines and restitution. But the federal judge in the case rejected the deal. The parties settled for $125 million.

Later, in 1994, a grand jury in a civil action levied punitive damages of $5 billion against Exxon, but that was reduced by the U.S. Supreme Court to $507.5 million under a maritime law ruling. Maritime law may also apply in the BP case.

In all, Exxon, at risk for $6 billion, ended up paying just over $1 billion in these criminal and civil settlements. Settlements in most such cases are negotiated, delayed and appealed over a long time. By the time many suits are settled, the claimants are dead.

Companies like BP normally turn to contractors to handle the claims process for those seeking immediate damages, such as fishermen who have lost their livelihoods. The contractor employees, who may be overseen by a BP representative, are familiar with techniques for minimizing claims paid. Claimants are often desperate, and settle for cents on the dollar to get paid.

It remains to be seen how BP will exert its political muscle to minimize its losses.

BP has hired 27 more lobbyists, mostly former elected and appointed federal officials, to work its case on Capitol Hill.

The oil and gas industry spent more on federal lobbying last year than all but two other industries, with $174.8 million in lobbying expenditures, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Political action committees set up by the oil and gas producers contributed an additional $9 million in the last election cycle to congressional candidates, with Koch Industries (owner of Atlanta-based Georgia Pacific), ExxonMobil, Valero Energy and Chevron leading the way. BP ranked 19th, with $75,500 in contributions, mostly to Republicans.

BP has also rolled out a $50 million PR campaign featuring a TV spot starring CEO Tony Hayward, whose impolitic comments while the news cameras were rolling, such as “I’d like to get my life back,” have proven to be less than popular.

In paid TV ads, what the CEO says can be controlled.

Noel L. Griese is the editor of Energy Pipeline News, published daily by Anvil Publishers of Atlanta and the author of 17 books on the energy industry and other subjects.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lab proposes an increase of 10 sen every six months until 2014

The Star Online, Friday 28,2010

KUALA LUMPUR: Fuel prices could increase as soon as next month if a proposal by the Subsidy Rationalisation Lab is to be implemented.

The lab, organised by Performance Manage­ment and Delivery Unit, recommended that fuel price be increased by 10 sen to 15 sen by the middle of the year to help realise the Government’s plan to cut its subsidy bill.

Following the initial increase, the lab proposed an increase of 10 sen every six months until 2014, by which time the level is expected to have reached market price.

To help mitigate the effects of the price hike, owners of cars with an engine capacity below 1,000cc will get a cash rebate of RM126 per year.

Owners of motorcycles below 250cc will get a rebate of RM54 a year.

Using this formula, the Government will save RM44.9bil in five years.

According to a simulation conducted by the lab, the impact of the price hike would be minimal.

It found that the diesel price hike of 15% or 21 sen would result in express bus fares increasing by one sen to 1.5 sen a kilometre.

The same quantum of increase would raise stage bus fares by 1.4 sen to 50 sen a kilometre, and school bus fares by one sen to 58 sen a kilometre.

For cooking gas or liquefied petroleum gas, the lab proposed a 10% increase by the middle of the year, followed by a 20% increase every year.

The lab projected that an increase of 15% in the price of gas would raise prices of food such as roti canai, nasi lemak, teh tarik and mee goreng by only one to four sen.

On healthcare, the lab proposed that the charge for outpatient treatment at public clinics and hospitals be increased from RM1 to RM3.

For in-patient treatment, the cost will be doubled to RM160 for Class One wards, RM40 (Class Two) and RM6 (Class Three).

Those whose household income is under RM2,160 or categorised under the Fees Act will still enjoy fee exemption.

It also proposed that from 2013, patients pay a percentage of their in-patient cost instead of the current flat rate, and from 2015, patients are to pay a percentage of their outpatient treatment and medication.

Malaysia petrol prices could rise initial 15sen/ltr

Wed May 26, 2010 9:04pm EDT

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 (Reuters) - Malaysia's government could hike petrol prices by an initial 15 sen (Malaysian cents) per litre from their current price at some stage this year under plans presented by a body advising the government on how to cut subsidies.

The benchmark RON 95 grade currently costs 1.80 ringgit ($0.543) per litre.

The proposals were made in a public presentation on Thursday to win over voters to accepting higher prices as Malaysia seeks to reduce its budget deficit which stood at a 20-year high of 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2009.

Under the proposals presented by the advisory body, the price of petrol would be hiked some time this year followed by two price hikes totalling 20 sen per litre in 2011 and two more of 20 sen per litre in 2012.

In 2013-2015, the price hikes would slow and by the end of 2015, the price of RON95 would stand at 2.60 ringgit per litre, according to the plans that have yet to be approved by the government.

The forecasts were based on a crude oil price forecast of $73.06 per barrel for 2011 and $79.41-$94.52 for 2013-2015.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Congestion pricing could be extended to Penang

Sunday April 25, 2010 - The Star Online

THE LPT Bill, if enacted, will not be restricted to Kuala Lumpur. It also provides the authority to implement ACP in any city in the country so there is a probability it could even be introduced in Penang.

However, Penang-based Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat) is against the idea.

Says Cepat co-ordinator and member of the Penang State Transport Council Dr Choong Sim Poey: “It may mean setting up a complicated system of gates to monitor movement of cars in and out of these zones.”

He says it could be expensive to implement and would not be successful if it was.

“We can’t even prevent illegal parking in front of police stations, for example in Penang Road or Burmah Road, so how can we monitor illegal entry?” he questions.

He believes congested areas can be cleared – simply by moving illegally-parked vehicles off the road. He also suggests reducing on-street parking, and raising the parking fees and a strong public transport improvement campaign as alternative measures.

“No extra equipment or infrastructure is needed, just political will. Cepat proposed this years ago, and we are waiting to see what progress the state Government can achieve,” says Dr Choong.

Similarly, social activist and blogger Anil Netto is against ACP.

“Much can be done to improve the public transport system, and we need to work on that first. Having congestion pricing without substantial improvements in public transport would be terrible,” he says.

A novel solution to improve public transport in Penang is to re-introduce the use of trams, and Netto has got a group of bloggers together to endorse the idea.

Trams are not new to the city; there was a tram system running in Penang until 1936.

He believes trams have many benefits and in the context of Penang will blend in with its heritage environment.

“It can be an added attraction for Penang, and it would be the first in the South-East Asian region. It’s also a great way to see the city and could encourage more visitors – locals, out-of-town Malaysians and foreign tourists – to the city. It will stimulate local economic activity,” he says.

Trams aside, Netto opines that Penang’s public transport system – on the whole – should be improved.

“It is not an either-or situation. Buses, trams, ferries – along with cycling and walking – should be part of an integrated transport system that complements one another, making Penang more accessible to all,” says Netto.

Commuters unwilling to pay unless system improves

Sunday April 25, 2010

The Star Online

FOR those working in the KL city centre, Area Congestion Pricing (ACP) is not something they are looking forward to, but some accept that it can be an effective measure. While people understand the need for a congestion toll, most are unwilling to accept it at the moment.

“I agree that traffic problems need to be addressed but I do not think ACP will be a solution until public transportation improves,” says financial advisor C.W. Ting* who is willing to pay an ACP charge, provided it costs the same as his fare.

K Nasir* reservedly agrees to the idea, but believes a combination of measures is needed to control traffic.

“I will be more motivated to car pool, but there will be days when I will still drive,” he says.

However, Hwei Min* who commutes from Subang Jaya to KLCC is against the idea of ACP as she has no choice but to drive to work every day.

“There is no Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Subang Jaya and I would have to drive to Kelana Jaya, which takes me more than half an hour. Then I would have to wait for three or four trains before boarding.

“I would probably have wasted at least one and a half hours using the LRT as opposed to driving, which takes me about 45 minutes,” says Min, adding that public transport in KL is a nightmare.

Danny Lok, 36, a frequent commuter on the LRT, has had many bad experiences due to breakdowns.

“The worst part is there is no continuity plan. They should advise or provide alternative transport to their desired station. They don’t communicate information to commuters either.”

* Full/actual names withheld on request

Bumpy road before a smooth drive

By JOSEPH LOH - The Star Online - 25 April 2010
A recently-tabled bill makes it possible for a congestion charge to be implemented for cars entering Kuala Lumpur’s city centre. But critics say a reliable and efficient public transport system needs to be in place first.

WITH the tabling of the Land Public Transport (LPT) Bill in Parliament recently, Malaysia has taken the first step towards the introduction of an area congestion pricing (ACP) scheme in traffic-snarled cities around the country.

This congestion toll system, similar to the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) in Singapore, and the Congestion Charge (CC) in London, England, makes users pay to use roads in the city centre to reduce traffic jams and to promote more efficient use of roads.

This Bill goes hand in hand with another, the Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat Bill (Land Public Transport Commission, SPAD) which empowers the formation of an authority in charge of all matters related to public transport, be it road or rail.

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, advisor to The Association For The Improvement Of Mass Transit (Transit) explains the purpose of ACP.

“Roads are valuable because there is a limited amount of space in the city. Drivers willing to pay more will have the option of using the roads, but it is not meant to prevent people from driving into the city centre. Rather, it is to discourage them from driving alone, encouraging people to car pool, or to use alternative transport,” he says.

Moaz adds that charging a premium for using roads in the city makes sense.

“If a house in the city costs more than that in the suburbs, the cost of the roads should be higher as well,” he says.

Goh Bok Yen, a transport planning consultant, says that at a basic level, it encourages people to switch to an alternative other than driving.

“The existing road space can be used more effectively and will make better use of the urban road system,” he says.

London and Singapore are considered to be good models of a congestion charge system, and its basic goal has been achieved. In February 2004, one year after London introduced the CC, Transport for London estimated traffic levels during charging hours showed a reduction of 18%, with a reduction of 30% in cars.

This also led to a significant gain in bus reliability, and London buses experienced up to a 60% reduction in disruption caused by traffic jams.

The point to note is that a congestion toll – if properly implemented – can be effective.

Moaz says that cars coming into the city centre are typically of single or low occupancy, and the average number of people in a car is a paltry 1.08.

“If we have an ACP, it would immediately reduce the (number of) cars coming into the city centre. If we increase the people from one to two per car, we can reduce the number of cars by half, and that would make a big difference,” he explains.

The price of deterrence

A pertinent question is the amount that will be charged. In Singapore, the ERP rates vary from 50 cents to S$4.00 (RM1.17 to RM9.30) per road travelled, while London’s CC is £8 (RM39.28) per day.

Goh believes that the quantum charged should be reflected by the price of the substitute available.

“It is like the elasticity of demand. If you have a very good substitute, people will switch to it even though the ACP price is not high. The resistance of people is reflected by availability of public transport,” says Goh.

There is also the question of where the collected funds end up.

London collected £325.7mil (RM1.6bil) in congestion charges in its 2008-2009 financial year, and after deducting all operating costs, had a net profit of £148.5mil (RM729.1mil). This sum was spent entirely on improving transport in line with the Mayor of London’s transport strategy.

Which is why Goh is strongly against privatisation of any local ACP collection system.

“It needs to be pumped back into the roads and the public transport system. If you privatise it, then profits will be channelled away. In Malaysia, we have a painful experience of road tolls. Every time a highway is completed, people should be happy, but these days everybody complains about it. We do not want that repeated for the ACP,” says Goh.

Moaz believes the sharing of information is crucial.

“It is frustrating not to have information, especially in the IT age, We have to inform people how the system works, what it is for, and tell them where the money is going. If we do not do that, people are going to object and think it is just another money pit,” he says.

However, what both London and Singapore share is a vital feature that makes a congestion toll system possible – a comprehensive, efficient and reliable public transport system. This is practically a prerequisite before a congestion toll can be implemented.

Goh says the basic requirement that has to be fulfilled is for motorists to have a viable, alternative mode of transport.

“Is public transport in KL today a reasonable substitute for a private car? It is not, and we are very far from it. It needs to have the elements of comfort, reliability, frequency and safety.

“You want something that can substitute for the whole journey in a reasonable manner. If we implement ACP before reaching that level, we leave the commuter no alternative but to drive and pay,” he says.

Goh adds that before the CC was implemented in London, the public transport system was at a very high standard and carried up to 70% of the commuters to work every day.

“Here, only about 18% of commuters use public transport. But looking at it in a positive light, we have a huge market for public transport,” he says.

Moaz, however, says the public should be aware that public transport will never be as comfortable and convenient as a private car.

“It will never reach that standard but it will give different advantages a private car will not give,” he says.

Comfort is a consideration, but Moaz says this is not the most important factor.

“People know they may have to stand, and sitting space will be cramped, but they are willing to sacrifice that personal comfort,” he says.

The most important factors, in descending order, are reliability, frequency, comfort, speed, information and the fare, he stresses.

The underlying fact is that there are simply not enough buses, trains, routes, accessibility from the house to the station and from the station to the destination to make public transport attractive.

“If we want congestion pricing, we must take a great leap forward in improving the public transport system. At the moment, it is premature to talk about it. What it really needs is a complete revamp of the system.

“Right now, we have not reached an acceptable level of public transport. The recent improvements (in the form of RapidKL and others) are just playing catch-up. What we have done is getting to a level we should have been five years ago,” says Moaz.

Goh agrees, saying that the public transport system should have been improved long before the rapid growth of private vehicle ownership.

“We have not done much for public transport until the last five years, but we have been talking about it for more than 25 years,” he says.

Goh believes that an ACP on its own is not sufficient to solve traffic problems – what is needed is a multi-faceted approach.

“For example, at one time Singapore was targeting low occupancy vehicles, and later high-occupancy vehicles too, and now everyone pays – even motorcycles or public transport vehicles.

“It also wanted to constrain vehicle ownership to restrict the number of cars on the road. They went another step further by having off-peak hours and weekend cars, and those are the ones with red plates,” he says.

Moaz also believes that ACP by itself will not accomplish the goal of reducing the number of cars on the road.

Incentives needed

“That is only one solution, and we would have liked to see other initiatives included in the Bill. For example, there should have been a package of incentives to encourage people to take public transport,” he says.

Apart from improving pubic transport, Goh says, there is a need for alternative routes around the city centre.

“Right now you may have to go through the city centre if you want to get to a particular destination from another. We should have a choice of roads but the linkages are missing,” he says.

He also thinks the proposed roads indicated by the Draft KL City Plan 2020 for ACP is too restrictive.

“The ACP outlined in the plan is constrained mainly to the central business district. It should be an area similar to the area surrounded by the middle ring road (Jalan Tun Razak). Also, with a defined boundary it will be easier to administer,” says Goh.

Moaz goes further and looks at the Commission itself.

“One of our biggest concerns is that the SPAD will be a re-organisation rather than a total reform of public transport. They are combining the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board and the Department of Railways, which handle all commercial transport on roads and rail respectively, into one organisation.

“Structurally it is better, but is it going to make real changes in the public transport system? If there is no reform, it will just be structural and nothing will change on the road,” he says.

Moaz says what is needed is something like the London model, which is called Transport for London (TFL).

“Say we call it Rapid for KL, and it will not be operating a service but instead focuses on managing the system. Companies like Len Seng or Metrobus would work for them, and the RapidKL bus and LRT services could be spun off as individual companies and work for the company. So Rapid for KL would be the single brand and face of public transport for Kuala Lumpur,” he suggests.

Optimistic for the future

Moaz says the new Bills do represent a step forward in reducing Kuala Lumpur’s traffic woes. “Creating the SPAD is a step forward, and it could take us to a major leap in public transport if they are willing to push for it.

“But if the SPAD does not push and take the lead on this, it will be 20 years of the same. Without a total reform of the public transport system, it is premature to talk about ACP,” he says.

“Under the current system, we are limited by a bureaucratic set of rules. Unless we can get past that we will not be able to achieve the quality of service and information required,” adds Moaz.

Goh says all factors such as public transport, alternative roads and other matters need to be achieved before ACP is implemented.

“It would be optimistic to say we can develop it within five years. But in 10 years’ time, it is possible. This would be two five-year plans, and if we don’t achieve it, then we are not serious about it,” says Goh.

Paying a price for less congestion in the city

By LIM CHIA YING - The Star Online - 26 April 2010

WHEN the Land Public Transport Bill 2010 was tabled for its first reading at Parliament two weeks ago, it generated a lot of interest from various quarters.

The act, among others, introduces an area congestion pricing scheme for certain areas during peak hours.

It also spells out a fine of up to RM2,000 or six months imprisonment or both for those who fail to pay the charge.

However, certain parties have come out against the bill, asking if it will be enough to encourage motorists to switch to public transportation.

Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit Klang Valley (Transit) adviser Moaz Yusuf Ahmad said it was an important issue but, currently, many had no choice but to use their own vehicles.

He said the congestion fee was part of the Government Transfor-mation Programme beyond 2012/2013 but the concept had not been marketed properly, resulting in negative comments and concerns over its possible implementation.

“Currently, there is no incentive for those who use private vehicles to switch to public transport.

Gridlock: Most of the concerned parties agree that the public transport system must be improved before congestion charges are introduced.

“Naturally, questions will arise on how the government will implement and manage the system and where the fees collected will go.

“Motorists must be made to realise that public transport will mean less worries about double-parking, the jaga kereta menace and stress.

“Those who want the convenience of using their own vehicles during peak hours will have to pay for it, which is a fair deal. However, the root of the problem is still our public transportation system,” Moaz said.

He pointed out that the Kota Damansara-Cheras line, which was announced in 2006, had still not taken off four years later.

“The government cannot rely on building LRT lines alone as it takes time to set up the infrastructure,” Moaz said.

Instead, he champions the need for bus-rapid-transit (BRT) systems, which he says are an efficient and cost-effective means of moving a largest number of people on the road.

“Bus lanes have to be introduced and enforced and the entire bus system must be reorganised. Transit feels there should be a physical separation of the lanes,” he said.

A motorist, who only wished to be known as William, said he worked in Bukit Bintang and, despite having a monorail station nearby, chooses to drive to work.

According to him, there are not enough parking spaces at the monorail stations and he does not like the crowd in the trains.

“If the congestion fees are introduced, I might not drive but it depends on the quantum. If I can afford it, I will still drive,” William said.

Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun also thinks that congestion charges are not appropriate now as the public transport system is still fragmented.

“There are many destinations that the LRT and buses do not service. Congestion charges should only be introduced when between 50% and 70% of city folk use public transport,” he said, adding that in Japan, about 75% of its population used public transport.

Moaz felt that the congestion charges should only be imposed as a last resort. Instead, he suggested other options like increasing parking charges in various parts of the city or having tax charges for certain car registration plates.

“With congestion fees, the amount should be small enough to slowly encourage people to use public transport or carpool.

“Now, most cars entering KL only have one occupant. If we can increase the average to two per vehicle, we can halve the number of cars on the road,” he said.

However, not everyone is enthusiastic about carpooling, with Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai saying that it had been tried unsuccessfully in the past.

“I recently read an article that provided statistics on the use of public transport in the Klang Valley. In 1985, 34% of the population used public transport. Today, that number has dropped to about 10%.

“This just shows a failure of the system. About three-and-a-half years ago, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had organised a forum on a similar area congestion pricing scheme but rejected the idea after negative feedback,” he said.

“In many car-producing countries, cars are affordable yet many opt to use public transport because it is efficient.

“The Bill should be withdrawn and reintroduced when the time is right. More should be done for public transport first,” he added.

Taxi passengers may also have to pay more if the Bill is imposed on cab services.

Federal Territory and Selangor Taxi Operators Association president Datuk Aslah Abdullah said this was the case in Singapore.

“However, we do not know if taxis, which are considered public transportation, are covered by the Bill.

“I’m worried that if the Bill comes into place and bus and LRT services improve, no one will want to take taxis, as customers will the decide on the cheapest form of transport,” Aslah said.

Klang Valley Taxi Owners Association president Abdul Jalil Maarof also said any congestion fees should be reduced for public vehicles like taxis and buses.

In a speech prepared by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for the Asian Metrocity Summit 2010 early this month, he said the present Klang Valley public transport share was only 10% although the government planned to increase it to 13% by yearend.

In his text, Muhyiddin said the Government Transformation Roadmap reflected a policy shift towards demand-side management.

“Once the public transport share reaches its target of 25% by 2013 in the Klang Valley, we’ll implement demand management initiatives like congestion pricing and parking surcharges,” he said.

When contacted, Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said as far as he was concerned, the ruling would not be enforced at the moment.

“We cannot afford to burden the people now, especially when our public transportation is still not up to par.

“If public transport has achieved its targets, then this law can be reconsidered,” he said.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour 8.30pm - 9.30pm Tonite

Dear Friends, show your support by switching of your lights at home between 8.30pm to 9.30pm in solidarity with Earth Hour.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Climate change uncertainty is no reason for inaction since we can't rule out risk

We don't have to believe that our house will burn down to take out insurance. So why delay taking action to reduce emissions?

Tim Palmer, Monday 22 March 2010 07.30 GMT

A man walks in the rain along the Albert Embankment in London. Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

Climate change is sometimes presented in simple black and white terms. You either believe it or you don't. Perhaps after the recent controversies over email leaks and melting Himalayan glaciers, some may have decided to change camp.

But this is a false dichotomy. Indeed the notion of "belief" plays no role at all in science, whether about climate change or anything else. The Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, was founded 350 years ago on this very basis, with the motto Nullius in verba, or "take nobody's word for it". The founders took nothing for granted and chose to investigate observations and search for the conclusions that best fit them. The notion that these conclusions can never be considered certain and immutable, underpinned both their actions and those that came after them. As James Gleick wrote about the great 20th century theoretical physicist Richard Feynman; he believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish on our ability to know, but as the essence of knowing.

Modern day weather prediction is inherently uncertain. Every day, weather forecast centres will generate an ensemble, typically of 50 individual weather predictions, in order to assess uncertainty in the weather up to a week or more ahead. The individual predictions have very slightly different starting conditions, reflecting the fact that the weather observations which generate a forecast's initial state are neither complete nor wholly accurate. When the atmosphere is in a predictable state, all 50 predictions are more or less identical for the coming week and the forecaster can say with great confidence what the weather will be like. On the other hand, when the atmosphere is in a chaotic state, the best the forecaster can talk about are probabilities of different outcomes.

Some, perhaps those without scientific training, may see probabilistic predictions as an evasion of responsibility. However, in reality, probabilistic predictions embody the scientific method. In any case, what is better for decision making, a forecast with some realistic measure of uncertainty, or some grossly overconfident prediction with no hint of uncertainty? Worldwide, probabilistic weather forecasts are now used by those making decisions to evacuate people exposed to river flooding, or to intense storms. For better or for worse, they are also central to who trade on future energy prices and other weather-sensitive commodities.

Similar "ensemble" methods are used to predict climate change, except here it is also critical to vary uncertain parameters in the climate models as well as uncertain estimates of how greenhouse gas emissions will change over the course of the century. As with the weather forecasts, contemporary climate predictions are essentially probabilistic. Hence for example, based on the ensemble of the world's climate models, we can estimate that over the Asian monsoon region, a season that was so wet it would only have a 1 in 20 chance of occurring in the 20th century, could have a 1 in 3 chance of occurring by the end of the 21st century.

We don't have to believe that our house will burn down in the coming year to take out insurance. Similarly we don't have to believe that dangerous climate change will occur to take action to cut emissions. A key question that everyone concerned by the climate change issue should ask, particularly those who are sceptical, is this. How large does the probability of serious climate change have to be before we should start cutting emissions? To be specific, how large does the probability have to be that by the end of this century, large parts of Bangladesh will under water because of sea level rise and a substantially more intense monsoon system? Or that the Amazonian rainforest will die because of shifts in rainfall patterns over South America? Or that the type of drought that plagued sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s will become a quasi-permanent feature? 0.1%, 1%, 10%, 50%? Considered this way, it's clear that the dichotomy between the "climate believers" vs "climate sceptics" is indeed a false one.

The scientific method is sometimes described as "organised scepticism", and this, rather than some logical progression from one certainty to the next, characterises the inherently uncertain path of scientific progress. As one leading climate scientist put it: "In truth, we are all climate sceptics." However, despite the climate scientists' best efforts at scepticism, it simply has not been possible to rule out the risk of the sort of climate changes discussed above.

Handling uncertainty is key to the scientific method, but, conversely, the existence of uncertainty is not itself cause for inaction.

• Tim Palmer is a Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professor at the Unversity of Oxford, and is organiser of a two-day discussion meeting at the Royal Society (22-23 March) on Handling Uncertainty in Science. The meeting includes speakers as diverse as Professor Sir Roger Penrose, eminent cosmologist and theoretical physicist, and Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tiered fuel plan scrapped; Govt will not increase price for now

Friday March 5, 2010


The Star Online

PUTRAJAYA: The Government has officially scrapped its plan to introduce the two-tiered restructuring of fuel subsidy following negative feedback from the public.

Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Con­sumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the decision was taken because the Government did not want such an important policy devoid of public support or acceptance.

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has stated that this is the people’s Government and it is open to views. Today, the Government has proven that we are not rhetoric and we truly hold on to our words.

“We have heard the people’s voices and now we have proven that we are willing to scrap the plan because the rakyat do not want it,” he told reporters here yesterday.

Ismail Sabri said the price of fuel would remain the same for now as “there was no directive to announce any hike”.

“I don’t know when that will happen but the public must remember that fuel price fluctuates.

“Foreigners can still purchase fuel according to petrol pump price. But the policy governing the sale of petrol to foreign-registered vehicles at border areas remains,” he said, adding that the ministry would be proposing to the Cabinet another “policy for foreigners”.

Foreign-registered vehicles are only allowed to pump a maximum of 20 litres at petrol stations within 50km radius from the border.

Ismail Sabri said the Government was subsidising nine sen more now in addition to the 30 sen it was already forking out for every litre of RON95 due to the commodity price increase.

Last year, the Government forked out RM3.4bil to subsidise petrol and RM1.9bil for diesel.

The plan, originally set to be implemented on May 1, was to introduce a two-tiered pricing system for petrol based on engine capacity while foreigners would have to pay the market price.

It called for the mandatory use of MyKad to differentiate Malaysians from foreigners, requiring the need for MyKad readers at petrol stations.

Ismail Sabri also said that a subsidy rationalisation laboratory headed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala was studying the implementation of government subsidies.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Petrol price expected to increase by 10sen

Kong See Hoh

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 21, 2010) : The government is expected to announce a price increase of 10sen a litre for RON95 petrol and diesel when the new fuel price mechanism is revealed in mid-March, Sin Chew Daily reported today.

The price of RON97 will also be increased but there is no decision yet on the quantum.
RON95 is currently retailed at RM1.80 a litre, RON97 and diesel at RM2.05 and RM1.70 a litre respectively.

Finance Ministry sources said the government has decided to raise fuel prices as it cannot provide more subsidy needed to maintain fuel prices at current levels following a spike in global crude oil prices.

The government believes an increase of 10sen a litre is acceptable to the public.

The sources also told the daily the government has yet to come up with a fuel price mechanism that is acceptable to all quarters, and as a result it may put off or may even be forced to abandon some new measures that are already in the pipeline.

“Plans were afoot for the registration of vehicle owners and their MyKad through Maybank and petrol kiosks to begin in April under the proposed ‘one vehicle owner, one subsidy’ fuel subsidy mechanism. It looks like the plan may not take off.”

The sources said the cap on selling 20 litres of petrol to foreign cars near Malaysian borders will continue to be implemented.

Meanwhile, Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Hashim Othman believes that foreign car owners will pay the market price when the new fuel price mechanism is introduced next month.

He said the government’s main intention is to provide subsidy to those who qualify for it, to protect the interest of the lower and middle-income groups as well as save on expenditures.

source -

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No more subsidized fuel for non-Malaysians from May 1 2010-01-07 21:03:08

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- From May 1, non-Malaysians will no longer be eligible for subsidized petrol, a Malaysian official announced near here on Thursday.

Currently, everyone including foreigners enjoyed the subsidized petrol but this would not be the case anymore when a new mechanism was put in place, Malaysian Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said.

Ismail told a press conference that under the new fuel subsidy structure, My-kad, the identity card of Malaysians, might have to be used to purchase petrol in order to ensure that only qualified consumers were entitled to subsidized fuel.

While the foreigners could no longer purchase subsidized petrol in Malaysia, Ismail said that Malaysians would also be grouped into different categories based on their vehicles' engine capacity so that only the targeted consumers enjoyed the Malaysian government's subsidy.

He said that the Malaysian government currently subsidized 30 sen (8.8 U.S. cents) a liter for the RON 95 petrol, allowing the commodity to be sold at 1.80 (53 U.S. cents) a liter in the market, adding that disqualified consumers would have to pay the market price or more in future.

RON, or the Research Octane Number, is a measure of how resistant gasoline is to premature detonation, or knocking. The higher the number is, the stronger the resistance is.

Ismail also said that other elements such as the socio-economic factors would also be taken into account when determining the petrol buying prices.
Need transport to Balik Kampung? Find a ride here