Smashing limousines to stress low carbon

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, September 20, 2011
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Want to really go low-carbon? Smash your limo first.

That was what Chen Guangbiao did last Friday in anticipation of the World Car-Free Day that falls on Thursday.

A young entrepreneur and philanthropist, Chen smashed his own Mercedes-Benz - still in good shape after 180,000 kilometers - at his corporate headquarters in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. At the same time, he bought around 200 bicycles for his employees and led them in a street parade to promote a low-carbon life.

Public opinion is divided as to whether Chen's action was just a publicity stunt to promote his business - he is chairman of Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources Co.

It could be a stunt, for sure, but it's more than a stunt.

Most of Chen's critics said it was no use just to smash one Mercedes-Benz.

China now has more than 100 million cars, including a large number of Mercedes and other luxury cars and limousines. Can Chen have all those limos smashed to fulfill his dream of destroying monstrous gas-guzzlers?

But critics have asked the wrong question. Chen certainly cannot smash all the gas-guzzlers like his deceased Mercedes, but the government could effectively ban gas-guzzlers from hitting the road. Chen simply hinted for the government to do the right thing. If it's not done, it's not Chen's fault, it's the government's.

Chen suggested that fuel fees be raised 50 percent and that car license fees be hiked in a progressive manner to 100,000 yuan (US$15,654) or 800,000 yuan, depending on engine size - the bigger the capacity, the higher the license fee.

He proposed that the money thus collected should be used to develop public transport and generally narrow the social wealth gap.

In Shanghai, a car license now costs a bit above 50,000 yuan, the most expensive in China. A surge to 100,000 yuan would surely be a heavy burden on someone like me, who has just bought an apartment in the western suburbs, and thus needs a small car.

But I still support Chen's proposal - if only the government really heeds what he says by acting on, not just talking about improving the city's public transport.

I have zero interest in owning a private car. Absolutely no interest.

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