Friday, October 25, 2013

Government Support Needed To "Electrify" Singapore

I FOUND Professor Kishore Mahbubani's vision of a Singapore with an all-electric fleet of vehicles exciting, but disagree with his suggestion that a citizen-led initiative is the best way to realise the vision 

Government intervention can smoothen and encourage the switch from petroleum-based fuels to electricity for vehicles - a seismic change that necessitates coordination between numerous industry players. There needs to be sufficient charging stations, dealers and skilled technicians catering to these vehicles.
To ask citizens to push for this initiative is unrealistic. While we could help by independently adopting this mode of transport and convincing others to do so, the ripple effect would be insufficient to advance the desired changes.

Prof Mahbubani cited the example of Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk to demonstrate an individual citizen's power.

But Mr Musk was far from being a sole agent of change; he was supported by the United States government, which granted a loan of US$465 million (S$577 million) to Tesla under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing programme.

Given our Government's regulatory powers, its position on electric cars will greatly influence how developments unfold.

Ultimately, the dichotomy between citizen- and Government-led initiatives is false. Much of today's technology is a product of the Government's and private sector's efforts. A case in point is the Internet, which emerged through heavy government involvement. But its potential was maximised through the efforts of private citizens, who adapted it to suit market demands.

Citizens can certainly unite to pursue the vision of "electrifying" Singapore, but the Government's involvement is crucial to make this dream a reality.

*This article was published on The Strait Times' Online Forum on 19th October 2013. 

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