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Fuel ultimatum

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has sounded a warning to the automobile industry to shift to vehicles running on cleaner alternative fuels or electricity. Mindful of the need to curb steeply rising oil imports and to meet the country’s commitments to cut down on fossil fuels heating up the planet, Gadkari last week told the auto industry: “I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. I will bulldoze. We will take the makers of petrol/diesel vehicles to task”. The Minister added that such polluting vehicles will have to make way soon for those running on ethanol and biofuels, or better still, electrical vehicles (EVs). This has been greeted by murmurs of protest from auto manufacturers that there can be no headlong rush to create an all-EV market in the next decade, that the fossil fuel-run industry is still a big generator of wealth and employment. However, China and countries like UK and France are setting timelines to completely switch over to EVs latest by 2040. So, India cannot afford to lag behind in this race, considering the commitments to clean energy she has made under the Paris climate pact. It would also do well to keep an eye on oil prices in the country, with petrol presently hovering at a 3-year high and nearing Rs 80 per litre in the metro cities and diesel crossing Rs 61 per litre. There is even talk of the Central government needing to protect consumers by capping fuel prices, which would then go against its policy of letting oil prices swing dynamically with international prices.