DURING President Barack Obama’s brief visit to the country last April, he attended the Global Electric Transportation’s (GET) launch of the Pangea City Optimized Managed Electric Transport (Comet), which aims to lessen the country’s 90 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions as of last year.

The Comet, which use US-based Pangea Motors and LLC technology, is designed especially for Manila’s busy streets and can run for 100 km in a single full charge with electricity. The first 30 Comet vehicles were deployed last month and by the end of 2016, the government aims to replace 30,000 diesel-fuelled jeepneys roaming in the Metro with 15,000 of these Comet units.

Yes, they can be the Philippines’ one way of lessening air pollution because of their “zero-smoke emission” feature, but there’s only one problem – our not so “green” power generation sources.

A 2012 report of the Department of Energy states that our country generates power both from renewable (hydropower and geothermal) and non-renewable (natural gas, coal, diesel, etc.) sources.

But what most of us do not know is that 73.1 percent of these sources are from the non-renewable fossil fuels that emit harmful carbon dioxide emissions that sum up to the country’s never ending battle against air pollution.

Fossil fuels used by the Philippines come from coal (36.62 percent), natural gas (25.45 percent), oil-based (5.51 percent), diesel (4.32 percent), oil-thermal (0.90 percent), and combined cycle gas turbine (0.29 percent). Most of them release more carbon dioxide emissions compared to the gasoline belched by cars in the country.

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Could we consider these E-vehicles to be our salvation from the pollution of our air if their emissions are just transferred to the areas where these generators are rooted?

No. Maybe this is just the government’s way to mask the real issue of not having enough clean, renewable power sources that might be the real key on decreasing the Philippines’ carbon dioxide print by introducing these vehicles in our streets.

Power crisis

Believe it or not, we have 58 operational power plants scattered all throughout the country but until now, areas especially in the Visayas and Mindanao regions still experience rotating brownouts.

I hail from Kalibo, the 45.75 square kilometer capital of the province of Aklan in Western Visayas. There, we experience more or less eight rotating brownouts each month. Our lives became more miserable in 2006 when our province suffered from the wrath of typhoon “Frank”; it took about one month or so to re-establish a temporary power supply for the major municipalities in the province.

There is just pure darkness at night, so we had nothing to do but just sleep it off and wait for the daylight to come.

In 2012, the World Fact Book by the Central Intelligence Agency of America stated that the Philippines ranked 43rd in the world for power production with 59.19 billion kilowatt-hour (kWh), 44th for power consumption with 54.40 billion kWh, and 150th for power consumption per capita (electric consumption per person) with 524.21 kWh. With these numbers, we could easily see that our country’s electricity production exceeds the Filipinos’ consumption by almost five billion kWh, but still it’s not enough!

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If in the previous years when E-vehicles were not yet born and power production in the country was not enough for the whole nation, how much more when these electricity-fuelled wheels increase in numbers? Of course it will result in greater power demand, more importation of fossil fuels, more greenhouse gases, more pollution.

Price check

For an E-Jeep that could carry 20 or more passengers for 80 to 100 kilometers in one six to eight-hour full charge, is the price of P680,000 reasonable? Or an E-Tricycle that costs 200,000 pesos, more than twice the cost of regular tricycles?

According to the statement of GET country manager Anthony Dy in the April 29 article of GMA’s Kim Luces, “The cost of electricity that one Comet would consume per day is estimated to be at P500. This is cheaper compared to the P1,000 to P1, 200 spent by regular jeepney drivers on diesel,” almost 50 percent of the operator’s money are saved daily to gas up.

I have nothing against these innovative E-vehicles. Like their proponents, I too advocate cleaner and healthier cities—just like in the provinces where you don’t need to worry about covering your nose from smoke, smog, and other harmful particulates released by gasoline-chugging cars.

There’s nothing wrong with helping a nation become the start of a brighter future, but we should always bear in mind that the roots of these advocacies we fight for, while having pure and honest intentions. Because no matter how many changes we apply, they will only be put to waste every time the foundation they are built upon is wobbly and ill-conceived.

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