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Volvo’s injury time for petroleum

By Sony Atumah

From the Shakespearean account in the Merchant of Venice, the character, Gratiano consoled his friend, Antonio who felt sad because his world was coming to an end. In a conversation frustrated Antonio said: I hold the world, but as the world, Gratiano, a stage where every man must play a part and mine a sad one. Gratiano addressing Antonio said: Let me play the fool. With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come. It is a choice between laughter and tears. We must live with merriment but also remind ourselves that a referee has signaled the commencement of the extra time in the petroleum game.

Nigeria must avoid the underutilization of staff and reduce research laggards in our petroleum that is mired with corruption, inefficiency, and underinvestment. That is the message as we joined the Group Managing Director, GMD of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru who celebrated his one year in office last week July 4. Commending him for a job well done in a 25-minute podcast cataloguing his modest achievements is also to ask more questions.

Asking what the problem is expands the frontiers of knowledge to squeeze more revenue from each barrel if we are more efficient. From data available one has observingly evaluated and also reminds the GMD of a memo in July 2016. The three-page checklist to Baru and published on this column was to reengineer NNPC, excerpt of which read: “ Environmentalists continue to pile on the pressures for global fuel efficient technologies to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse emissions using renewable and alternative energies including solar, geothermal, and nuclear energy sources.”

But the story line of last week, July 5 which headlines were more like fictional narratives, was that automaker Volvo announced changes in the structure of production technology and innovation from internal combustion engine, ICE vehicle to electric vehicle. It tended to bring to fruition Thomas Edison’s thought on oil and solar (renewable) energy in the 19th century when he put his bet: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Edison’s reasoning for alternative to fossil fuel was not given a thought then because revenue generated from petroleum tax was more attractive.

For their money Edison was misunderstood when he announced that renewable energy and not oil was the future. His quest for innovation and the dependence on fossil fuels drove him to think about solutions in inexhaustible natural energy. He developed a suitable storage battery that could power what was the first electric car in 1912. The system Edison developed in the auto industry was abandoned for the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine which cost was half the price of his electric car valued then at between US$500 and US$750.

Volvo announced that the internal combustion engine that powers our vehicles since the 1870 second industrial revolution would be phased out from 2019. The Swedish carmaker was purchased by Chinese carmaker Geely in 2010. But the latest fanfare has not brought down the price of the future Volvo cars. The basic plug-in hybrid version of its XC90 SUV crossover costs £61,650, £13,250 more than the basic diesel version.

Although the economic viability of the electric vehicle is still in doubt, Volvo chief executive officer, Håkan Samuelsson announced the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.” All new cars produced by Volvo from 2019 onwards will be partially or completely battery-powered. They will range from battery-only to plug-in hybrid—which can run for a significant distance before switching to petrol or diesel—and mild hybrids, where a battery helps a conventional engine achieve greater fuel economy. Volvo plans to sell a total of one million electrified cars by 2025.

Major automakers, including Renault-Nissan, BMW and VW, have intentions to consign petroleum to geological history in two decades. The VW emissions scandal gave added impetus for companies to focus on the technology, as policy makers and environmental activists increasingly blamed diesel for cities’ air quality problems. The German Bundesrat, Legislative body last year approved the ban on internal combustion engines, ICE arguing that the current lower costs for gasoline and diesel cars are detrimental when trying to encourage buyers from switching to zero emission cars. It is to encourage Germany’s world car manufacturers including BMW, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen to advance in the development of electric vehicles.

The G7/G20 countries have almost had a definite stoppage time for petroleum to tackle orchestrated climate change with generous government grants to support research and subsidies for electric vehicle manufacturers and drivers. There are over two million electric cars worldwide by the end of 2016. No more time for merry making.

 


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