A rare spectacle swept across Kenya last week as our oil pumps ran dry. Initially, long queues were witnessed at petrol stations as motorists jostled for petrol. Within hours, most of these petrol stations didn’t have any fuel, leaving motorists stranded. This was a stark reminder that the world must free itself from its oil addiction. If we don’t do so, our economy, environment, and health will continue paying a huge price.
Oil accounts for almost 3% of global GDP. A country like Libya earns 43% of its national revenue from oil. Further to that, petroleum products can be found in most of the things that we use including plastics, personal protective equipment, fertilizers, chemicals and clothing. We are therefore not waging a war against all. Rather, the goal is to break free from an oil addiction that has become cancerous.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Hiding in the current oil crisis is a golden opportunity that we must seize. It is an opportunity for us to embrace and expand cleaner, greener energy like biofuel, and electric, and hydrogen-powered cars.
Have you ever heard of the mukinduri tree? Also known as Kenya Croton in English, an indigenous tree in Kenya. This tree might just have the solution to the oil crisis we are currently facing. We have known for years that this indigenous tree can fuel our cars and machines.
A local company has been buying croton nuts from thousands of farmers from Mt Kenya and Rift Valley. It then produces biofuel from the nuts and sells the fuel to select clients. While the fuel still needs processing before it can be used in cars, its very production is a big leap in the right direction. More than a decade earlier, several local players followed this route and produced biofuel from jatropha. Unfortunately, jatropha biofuel didn’t take off due to numerous reasons. It didn’t help that oil companies fought tooth and nail to destabilize the biofuel baby steps.
It is time for Kenya to recommit to the seventh SDG which seeks to ‘ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.’ Biofuel must therefore be further explored with an open mind and sufficient resources.
Croton fuel produces 78 percent fewer diesel emissions than diesel, making it a much cleaner option. Is it not possible to vastly replant the cotton tree to increase our forest cover while knowing that we can still reap big in biofuel?
Electric cars have already taken off in other parts of the world and must do the same in East Africa.
In 2020, almost 75 percent of Norway’s new car sales were electric. That was not strange because this Scandinavian country has the highest number of electric cars in the world. This didn’t just happen automatically. Over the years, the Norwegian Government has provided numerous tax incentives for electric car owners. Apart from receiving tax exemptions in road tax and toll charges, they also pay fifty percent less in parking fees. With such incentives, who would not want to own an electric car? Apart from Norway, at least 13 other countries also saw a rise in the sale of electric cars in 2020. In these countries, more than 10% of new car sales were electric.
While most motorists park their cars due to the ongoing oil crisis, those who own electric cars are driving as usual. By God’s grace, I drive an electric car and therefore didn’t have to queue at petrol stations or park my car during the ongoing oil crisis.
As we wait for Hydrogen technology to click, I suggest that Kenya’s Government need to follow the example of Norway and make it a lot cheaper to own and run an electric car. That way, the percentage of electric cars in new car sales will rise exponentially.
Last December, Kenya Power revealed that it would construct a network of public electric vehicle charging points. Such plans must be expedited not just by Kenya Power, but by other investors as well. Think green, act green.