Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Health Cost of Using Traditional Fuels

Wazzup Pilipinas!

By the time you finish reading this article, over 10 people would have died from health complications caused by air pollution.

Worldwide, over 8 million premature deaths can be attributed to air pollution every year and it is a silent killer that nobody seems to be doing much about. The burning of traditional fuels like firewood and charcoal for cooking and diesel for transportation, all contribute to what the World Health Organization (WHO) has singled out as a major health hazard - air pollution.

Ironically, the “cure” for air pollution has already been around for over 100 years, just not applied well - LPG. LPG is a clean fuel that burns without emitting noxious fumes and particulate matters that get into your lungs and causes cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases. LPG is not only clean, it is portable, versatile and efficient, and can be used for thousands of applications, including cooking, driving, generating power, and even, mowing the lawn! More importantly, LPG is already readily available throughout the Philippines.

But isn’t LPG expensive? Surprisingly, the solution is not uneconomical to implement. A 2006 cost-benefit study by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that investing US$13 billion a year to provide LPG access worldwide would halve the number of people cooking with solid fuels by 2015 and in turn generate a return of US$ 91 billion in health and other community benefits. Not many investment projects can boast a 700% return on investment that investing in access to LPG will bring.

Looking at congestion-cogged Manila as an example, we can see that the problem is especially acute. Millions of people are exposed to cancer-causing particulates from diesel emissions every day, resulting in lung cancer and other health complications from air pollution. Autogas - using LPG as a vehicular fuel, is an available solution to the problem and should be promoted on its health merits.

It is clear that fuel choice has critical influence on human health and is a decision, which should be made with care. There is a responsibility to ensure that people are aware of the consequences of their fuel choice and that the full cost of utilizing traditional fuels will be reflected in their living environment.

The industry however, needs to be properly regulated in order to grow. The Autogas industry in the Philippines has been derailed largely because of improper management. Drivers were allowed to conduct illegal conversion of their vehicles, which resulted in poor quality and leaks that lead to accidents. Illegal refilling, with no regard to health, safety and quality has become rampant, adding unnecessary risks to the system. All these issues need to be addressed in a developing world context to ensure that solutions that are applicable to the Philippines are swiftly deployed.

On the 24 – 25 August 2015, the LPG Philippines Forum 2015 will be held at SMX Aura in order to address these issues. The Forum, organized as a follow-up event to the highly successful Asia LPG Summit that was hosted in the Philippines in 2014, will bring together the stakeholders that make up the LPG value chain to seriously look at the challenges facing the industry and to look for solutions. More importantly, international experts with real world implementation experiences have been invited to the Philippines where they will share real examples of LPG at work. Expect to hear real life examples of how Japan provided disaster relief to thousands of refugees using LPG when the Great Earthquake and Tsunami of Japan hit in 2011, a situation that Philippines is not unfamiliar with. Hear how India has done away with subsidies and introduced a direct benefit transfer programme that has helped over 150 million people gain access to LPG saving the government millions in the process. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain access to all these life examples and a great learning opportunity for everyone in the Philippines LPG industry.

The conference is co-organized by the LPG Summit, Partnership for Clean Air (PCA), and supported by the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Industry Association (LPGIA) and the LPG Marketer’s Association (LPGMA) of the Philippines.

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