Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bike to Work, Following Dutch habit and Cuban Experience

Continuing my previous writing, on the rise of fossil fuel I want to say something about how we can save more money in the middle of the soaring fuel price. Third world countries must make adjustments in order to come out of this chaotic situation. In Indonesia, shortly after the government announced the reduction of fuel subsidy, various elements of civil society launched nationwide protests to reject that policy. To restrain tensions, the government have given small amount of money to millions of poor households as the compensation for the rise of fuel. Temporarily, within the next few months, each poor household will receive 100,000 rupiahs (equals to 10.75 US dollars). In mass media, people have been discussing bio-fuel as an alternative to fossil fuel.
This country, actually, is rich of natural resources, including huge natural oil and gas reserves. Located between two continents and two oceans, Indonesian should enjoy prosperous life. In the contrary, the situation is worse. This country has not really come out of crisis since the late 1990s.
In addition, most of Indonesia’s oil and gas reserves are being exploited by foreign companies. Intellectuals are blaming the government for selling blocks of oil and gas reserves to multi national companies. They even have demanded the government to re-evaluate the oil and gas contracts so that the oil or gas and other precious mineral fields can be nationalized.
For me it is not the best solution. We cannot blame those companies. It is our own government mistakes for being so stupid to sell oil and gas blocks to foreign companies. So, we should not regret for that. These foreign companies follow the rule of the game. We must not forget that they still pay tax to the government while at the same time they also deserve profit from billions of dollars of their investment in this country.
What we need to do is to stop corruptions among the government officials so that more money can be used for the benefit of all the people in this country. Government have to be efficient in all sectors of their operations so that they will not become a heavy burden for their own people. Well, I don’t want to talk more about it at this time. I will only focus on how we can save more money when facing soaring fuel price.
China, India, Russia, Vietnam and other countries are developing rapidly. They import huge amount of oil. The increasing demand of fuel oil will make the price higher. Meanwhile, Iraq as one of world’s major oil suppliers is currently facing civil war. Any small disturbances in oil refineries in the middle-east region can easily trigger price hikes.
The urgent thing that we have to do now is reducing our dependency on fossil fuel. It has to be started from our life style. I see that most of us have forgotten how to ride bicycle. For instance, the population of Indonesia is two hundred ten million people. Suppose that 100 hundred million stop using cars and motorcycles and begin riding bicycles to work, to school, to the market, or to anywhere in their vicinity. How many liters of oil that we can save? Suppose that by riding bicycle, everyone can save one liter of gasoline a week, it means that we can save 100 million liters of gasoline a week. Let’s think about the impact of this simple life-style. The money which we have to send to the middle-east for buying fuel oil, for our transportation, can instead be spent on food, education, and health care. The more we save, the more we can spend to improve our standard of living. We can live better by riding bicycle.
In order to revive this biking habit, a national campaign should be launched. In the past, there was Tour de Java, a prestigious cycling race for bikers. Similar competitions have to be revived again and conducted in every town of this country. It has to be a national habit like what our brothers and sisters in the Netherlands and Cuba have done for years.
When the former Soviet Union collapsed, it could not support Cuba with cheap fuel anymore. Cuban government had to make adjustments during that difficult period. It opened its doors for tourism. Cuban people were asked by their government to change their living habit from driving cars to riding bicycles. Cuba imported millions of bicycles from China. It also manufactured its own bicycles. Sugarcane plantations and factories in that country have been improved to be more efficient. Therefore they are not only producing sugar but also electrical energy and bio-ethanol. Engineers installed more micro hydro power plant in remote villages. They also make photovoltaic panels with the help of international community through foreign NGOs and UN organizations. Such development of alternative renewable energy can attract more tourists to Cuba. I hope that more countries can follow Cuban experience in diversifying their energy resources and in changing their life style. In recent years, mountain biking is getting more and more popular in Indonesia. This can be seen by the increasing number of people who ride mountain bike across the country. There is even a television show about it. The price of a mountain bicycle starts from around 150 US dollars (for aluminum frame) to 8,000 US dollars (for carbon frame).  Let’s bike to work. by Charles Roring
Also read: Dirt jump Mountain Bike