This is possibly the coolest thing I’ve seen in the past few months. Greenpeace and Green Independent Power Producer have partnered with the cities of Bacolod and Makati to put in place electric jeepneys!
As any Manileño or visitor to the NCR will tell you, pollution is no joke here. There is a perpetual cloud of dullness and everything – buildings, cars, people – inevitably get covered with layers of soot. You can see the difference in the colors of basic plants as soon as you go to the province, it’s really striking. Furthermore, if you’re a commuter, kawawa ang lungs mo. Turns out the pollution is a health problem as, according to a column by Jarius Bondoc (in “Palace Bribery a Perfect Crime, Nov. 23, 2007), “Two of every hundred residents of Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu and Davao die each year from overexposure to toxic emissions. Nine of every hundred suffer from chronic bronchitis. Hardest hit are jeepney drivers, one of every three (32.5 percent) of whom have permanent coughs; air-con bus drivers, 16.4 percent; and commuters, 14.8 percent.” Yikes!
But these electric jeepneys are extra cool because they are completely clean burning. The battery can last for days and the plan is to build recharging stations that use organic waste for fuel. So, the fuel will come from garbage! That to me is really exciting, as there have been a million times when I’ve tripped over buds falling from cotton trees or buko shells in the street and thought “What a waste, I’m sure there’s a use for this stuff.”
So even though Greenpeace et al are championing the electric jeepney as a force against climate change, I’m much more excited at the idea that biofuel will be cheaper than diesel, augmenting jeepney drivers’ incomes, people in agriculture and who do small time business with fruits and vegetables (I’m thinking the buko vendor, the piña vendor, the mais vendor), will have a market to sell their waste products and so can increase their incomes as well. Less dependence on foreign oil and corporate petroleum magnates is always good for state sovereignty and the power of small and medium sized-businesses.
But best of all, after getting to where you’re going, your hair will still smell good :).