Sunday, May 6, 2007

To save or use - that is the question about carbon credits

My parents never owned a car in their life time. They mostly walked to their schools and studied books during day light. They took public transportation to get to work and worked without fan and air condition on hot and humid days. Our annual electricity usage averaged below 30 KWH (US average is around 9000 KWH per year) when we were growing up. Even that was very high among our many neighbors. We did not have a refrigerator until we started going to college. Many families in my village still do not have refrigerator. We bought our first television when I was 20 years old. I am just 34 years old, Thank you very much if you thought I am a very old man!

When I got a job that paid well, I bought a car. It had three quarters of a liter engine, two cylinders and four crammed seats. It probably gave me 50mpg (miles per gallon). But that was too much petrol (gasoline) compared to the 150mpg I was getting from my old Vespa scooter. But it was worth the prestige and mark of success it brought to my otherwise lower middle class Indian life.

It was an opportunity of a life time to come to the US and see the prodigal life styles of baby boomers in the US. McMansions, Hummer Limousines, larger than wall TVs, 8 passenger SUVs for the soccer moms and 400 horses for the NASCAR dads, the list is end less. But it did not tempt me to buy a V8 as my first car. I went with the Asian bet on Honda Civic. It had four cylinders, 100 horses and five comfortable seats and gave 32 mpg. Not a bad upgrade from the two cylinders. I found my peace in my civic among the gas guzzling SUVs and roaring sporting machines crowding southern California freeways.

Then all of a sudden, the largest contributor of global warming (US) realized that the way of extravagant life at the expense of the unsustainable fossil fuel is at risk. Celebrities lined up at Prius dealerships until Toyota started making it in abundance. Al Gore bought a hybrid lexus SUV as a brand ambassador for inconvenient truth. He also bought carbon credits to offset the global warming caused by the energy costs of his Tennessee Mansion. Oscar went green by buying carbon credit.

That made me realize the pile of carbon credit I have been sitting on all my life. As a legal heir of carbon free ancestors, I inherited lots of carbon credits. I also managed to collect quite a lot of carbon credit on my own. I walked to work for many years until I moved to a place that was beyond walking distance. We used very little electricity to cool and very little gas to heat by continue to practice thermal management as in the old days. Thermal management is a fancy word for opening windows in summer nights and wearing warm clothes in winter. Thanks to Victoria Secret, sleeping with nice warm sweater in winter is so un-cool these days. We switched off lights when not in use. We bought CFLs in place of ordinary bulbs. We used home filtered water instead of the plastic bottles from Fiji. We banked online with paperless e-bill.

So we decided to use some of the carbon credit slowly but cautiously. We just didn’t want to run out of it in my life time. Using those credits, I decided to buy an SUV. I saved some credits by buying a super low emission vehicle (SLEV) with above average SUV mpg. Later I lost my Honda civic. So I had to use more of those credits once more to buy a Honda V6 instead of a 4 cylinder. But I believe I still have more credits left even to buy and heat a McMansion at some point in my life. So I have to be careful not to spend too much of my carbon credits. I would rather save the habitat for Sundarbans tigers than owning a McMansion habitat. But then that is what I though when I did not own a car. 'I would rather save the ozone than save a walk'. Saving planet is awfully difficult when you have the means, especially in a 'Super Size It' and indulging society. When some one is urging the public to ride public transportation, they mean what they say. The 'public' to ride public transportation so that there are less cars in the freeway when they cruise along in their Lexus RX 400h.


Rupesh said...

Dear Sreeresh

Was going through ur article 'To save or use - that is the question about carbon credits'. One thing we as Indian have never accepted the map thats shown in your article. (Kashmir is not shown as Indian Territory). Like the Indian Government I too can't. We have fought too many battle lost many compatriot for that small space and still fighting, although i would
have loved a world without boundaries but then you know how we are when it comes to our nation.

Sree said...

Dear Rupesh,

I share your patriotic concerns. When I googled a map of Sunderbans, this is the best I could get. But as a citizen of India, I should not have posted a map in my blog that does not show entire Kashmir as part of India as recognized by Indian Constitution. I took off the picture from the blog site and added a picture of tiger swimming in the sundarbans waters.

I will be more careful in the future and accept my heartfelt apologies :(

Hopefully one day, we as Indians, will have a map of India that every one in the world accepts.

Warm regards

Toddy said...

A very interesting insight you bring up ~ as an American born into the gratuitous consumer culture that is the US, i think i may have lifetimes of karmic carbon credits to live off in order to even become 'neutral'... your perspective is a very worthwhile one to explore and expand upon.. i know many people who would do well to read what you've written. thank you.. toddy