Resolving the fine-dust problem
It’s been over a month since the government held a ministerial meeting and announced a special plan against fine dust, and the controversy is still ongoing. But we need to stop blaming and seek clues for solutions together.
According to current Korean laws, cars powered by electricity, solar energy, hydrogen fuel cells and natural gas are considered environmentally friendly. There are no natural gas and solar-powered models that can be used as passenger vehicles in Korea yet. In Europe, not only electric, hydrogen and natural gas vehicles but also liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and bio-powered cars have been classified as alternate fuel vehicles, and various assistance measures for development and distribution are in place.
In the United States, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong, LPG has a lower tax rate than other fuels to allow citizens to use more economically. It is quite different from the Korean government, which only considered increasing taxes on diesel in response to fine dust associated with diesel-fueled vehicles.
Currently, electric, hydrogen fuel cell and LPG vehicles are mentioned as the most likely alternatives to diesel cars. However, there are many obstacles to their distribution and wider usage. First, we need to establish a charging infrastructure for electric and hydrogen vehicles. There are only 333 electric car charging stations and 10 hydrogen car charging stations in Korea. Car prices are also not so affordable yet. Even the price of the more affordable Tesla model is not very competitive.
The government should come up with more realistic solutions to resolve the fine-dust problem. In addition to establishing an electric car charging infrastructure, the authorities need to consider stronger measures to encourage people to drive environmentally-friendly cars.
When LPG cars are encouraged worldwide, Korea should reconsider unnecessary regulations. LPG cars can be a realistic alternative. Korea already has world-class LPG automobile technology. Expanding domestic demand will also help Korea’s competition in the growing global LPG vehicle market. Similarly, investment in the wider distribution of electric and hydrogen cars will be a foundation for Korea’s entry into the global environmentally-friendly vehicles market.
Most importantly, all these measures need to be promoted and implemented quickly and effectively. The government has been busy inarticulately defending itself from public outrage. Hopefully, the government will act more swiftly and smartly.