Week 563 – 2008-06-08: Saving Energy and Using Energy Efficiently

Posted on 9 June 2008. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 563 |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 563

The price of one barrel of crude oil jumped up by UDS$11 during one single day during the past week, to US$ 139 per barrel. One year ago it was less than half this amount. The price of premium gasoline, now quoted at Riel 5,650 per liter, did not double during the past year. The voices which criticize the Cambodian government for not being able to stop this may hope to get some political credit for saying so; but while they may get such a response locally, it is clear that their criticism is missing the point: no government in the world, depending on the import of oil, has been able to control the degree of continuing price increases which are affecting all consumers of oil, and of the products and service which depend on oil.

The oil crisis found two quite differently oriented responses during the week: What to do with the international oil market, and What to do in terms of a more radical rethinking about the use of energy.

There had been a call from Germany and Japan on OPEC to increase oil production – similar to the recent call be the US president to Saudi Arabia. Similarly, on the domestic scene, the Minister of Economy and Finance summoned Cambodian fuel companies to discuss the price of fuel in Cambodia. Similar efforts have been going on time and again, and not only during the past, crisis ridden year. But the growing demand for oil has led to a long history of price increases – time and again going higher than predicted by wishful thinking and appeasing estimations, that “soon a more stable level would be reached.” With a definitely limited supply of fossil fuel in the world, there is no way that this could happen.

But this week brought also a number of reports looking beyond the consumption of oil – considering the saving of oil in small and in big ways.

According to a report from the Chinese Xinhua News Agency, ministers in charge of energy problems of the G8 countries [“Group of Eight” – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America] plus China, India, and South Korea, met in Japan “to step up efforts for energy efficiency so as to lower global market demands and cut greenhouse gas emissions.” It was not not only an effort to get more oil produced at lower prices, and at the end they announced the establishment of an International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, as an instrument to facilitate energy-saving measures and the transfer of related technologies. “The ministers believed that energy saving and energy efficiency is one of the quickest, greenest, and most cost-effective way to address energy security, climate change, and ensuring economic growth,” according to the declaration.

What is interesting, is that the Xinhua Agency produced, on the same web page, also a series of pictures from the Spanish capital city of Madrid, a country normally known for its conservative culture, explaining, “Naked protesters ride on a street in Madrid, on 7 June 2008. Hundreds of protesters hold a naked bicycle riding demonstration here on Saturday to protest against the expansion of the use of autos and call for bicycle riding instead of driving cars to reduce pollution as well as respecting the rights and interests of riders.”

Similar demonstrations have taken place in about 130 cities on five continents – an effort not only to speak, but to take action in a way that the public is strongly challenged: “We ride in order to draw attention to the oil dependency and the negative social and environmental impacts of a car dominated culture.”

Actually, the UN World Environmental Day, hardly considered in Cambodia, was held under the Topic “Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy” – and was promoting, among other things, also the use of bicyles in cities – and the preparation of the roads to make them safer for the use by cyclists.

In previous editorials of the Mirror, we had reported also on calls by the Cambodian authorities to save energy, and we shared observations:

6.1.2008 – Week 541: The Prime Minister “called on state institutions which use state fuel, that they should use fuel economically and not use it for work which is not work for the state, for example, gasoline of the state should not be used to go for a private drive on Saturdays or Sundays.”

16.3.2008 – Week 551: “All institutions should help to save electricity… Air conditioners should be set at 25 degrees centigrade…” On 13.3.2008, a circular had said: “‘the royal government has a policy that all cities and provinces should save electricity as well, in order to save national expenses…”

30.3.2008 – Week 553: “It was also noted, during the past weeks, that several movements of the Cambodian government – like the appeal to save electricity… were denounced by some as political maneuvers by the government.”

13.4.2008 – Week 555: We mirrored already twice during the current year that the Prime Minister strongly appealed to save energy – on 4 January 2008 and again on 13 March 2008. Probably the overall results of such appeals could be improved, and wider cooperation all over society could be increased, if the relevant authorities would publish data about what has been achieved, and what could be done better – for example in relation to power cuts in Phnom Penh. “At present, the situation is not transparent at all, in terms of fair distribution of power cuts, savings achieved, or other aspects of adherence to the advice of the Prime Minister. For an orderly, just, and peaceful development of society, especially in times before an election, transparency is crucial.”

Now, on 5 June 2008, there was also again a call by the Cambodian government, advising all state institutions to save electricity. But it comes still without any report back what happened with previous, similar calls. What did state institiutions do, what did cities and communes do?

On 6 June 2008, practical public action was reported – though from India: the Prime Minister’s office did not approve a plan by the Minister for Decentralization to travel to the US and to Norway, the Tourism and Culture Minister, and the Shipping and Surface Transport Minister canceled their trips in view of austerity measures. Such publicly announced measures create confidence that the government acts.

Before knowing that “energy saving and energy efficiency” would be identified by the G8 energy ministers as “one of the quickest, greenest, and most cost-effective way to address energy security, climate change, and ensuring economic growth,” we had already mirrored on Monday a report about two NGOs working with similar goals: using energy saving methods which are a contribution to fight global warming and, at the same time, can also be used as carbon credit trading measures, bringing even financial returns for their saving of about 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide during the years 2003 to 2007.

Is this method not known more widely in Cambodia? Or is it used but not so much reported? It appears that many methods of reforestation in Cambodia might also qualify for such financial rewards – though the question remains, of course, whether re-forestation is not counterbalanced by the many reports of de-forestation – as some random reports from the present week show, like we have them almost every week:

  • Gunman Cutting Down Trees in Ratanakiri
  • Trees in the Northeast Provinces and in Kompong Thom Continue Being Destroyed
  • Merchants Are Cutting Down Trees on Phnom Kulen

The 7th and 8th of the UN Millennium Development Goals share these concerns:


7.Ensure environmental sustainability

8.Develop a global partnership for development

Therefore we mirrored on Saturday the announcement of a scholarship scheme which is not just offering educational opportunities abroad in general, but which offers a clearly targeted opportunity for young entrepreneurs, to study information technology that is geared to new and resource-saving technologies and products in Germany – a combination of theory and applicable practice: information and communications technology, useful to start environment friendly businesses after returning back to Cambodia.

We wish the successful applicants all the best, and hope that the Khmer press will pay attention to such theory-and-practice combining efforts, as a contribution towards coming closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

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