Apr

I’m confused. Where is the priority?

2011-04-01 21:15
Patrick O'Leary - Publisher/Managing Editor

While the Government has already implemented a carbon tax on new motor cars, it is only a matter of time before they impose a similar tax on trucks. However, I’m confused for I see a lot of dirty smoke rising into the air , and it ain’t coming from truck exhausts. So please can someone help me on this for either I’m missing something or otherwise I’m as thick as a plank. (Don’t let my wife read this. She’ll confirm it’s definitely the latter).

Given that dinosaurs are millions of years old , except in Zimbabwe where there is a young one thriving at a mere 87 years old , it wasn’t long ago that global warming became a ‘˜hot’ topic around the world. The destruction of the ozone layer , which few of us had heard of before , became a regular dinner table topic and people soon began to store their empty Simba chip packets in the cubbyholes of their cars instead of throwing them out their car windows as they had been happily doing for years. We’ve come a long way since those early days of panic when we all thought we were going to be crisped to toast when struck by the day’s first UV rays while venturing out for an early morning swim. Even our household now has separate bins for the recycling of our rubbish. We’re into a new version of Ching- Chong-Cha. Instead of Rock, Scissors or Paper, we now play Can, Plastic or Paper.

Eskom's  Grootvlei power plant alongside the N3 is bombing the ozone layer into oblivion while it competes for the 'Gunk Spewer of the Year' award. Pity those mielies as well

Eskom’s Grootvlei power plant alongside the N3 is bombing the ozone layer into oblivion while it competes for the ‘Gunk Spewer of the Year’ award. Pity those mielies as well

Given the new era of environmental awareness, it surprisingly took our Government a long time to recognise that it too could play a role in cleaning up the environment by taking a leading role as an environmentally responsible ‘˜citizen’. Of course, they were pushed a little bit into this by the knowledge that at the same time, they could rake in some extra ‘˜moola’ to pay for the five star hotels, first class air tickets and zooty Mercs our political elite seem to be so fond of. They thus decided to show us the way by introducing a carbon tax which buyers of new cars now all have to pay. Apart from a few dinky toy models that even a ‘˜children’ like Julius Malema would never be seen dead in, the fact that no manufacturer could meet the emissions standards across the full range of models didn’t enter the picture. Fuel quality as an enabling factor was pushed aside in place of the big buck. And now the truck market is next , and this is where I’m confused.

ArcelMittal's Vanderbijlpark plant on a good day. It's owner is the 6th richest man in the world. C'mon Mr Mittal. Spare us one of your billions to clean up this armpit. You won't even notice it's gone but we will notice when the foul smoke is gone.

ArcelMittal’s Vanderbijlpark plant on a good day. It’s owner is the 6th richest man in the world. C’mon Mr Mittal. Spare us one of your billions to clean up this armpit. You won’t even notice it’s gone but we will notice when the foul smoke is gone.

Take a look at the pictures on this page. For years companies like ArcelorMittal South Africa (formerly Iscor), Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium Limited (formerly Highveld Steel & Vanadium) and Eskom (formerly a reliable supplier of electricity) were pumping noxious and poisonous gunk into the air. And guess what? They still are. While the trucking industry is going flat out to clean up is act with Euro 5 compliant trucks already operating in South Africa – albeit in small numbers at the moment – such companies are still spewing gunk into the air on a daily basis and at a rapid rate of knots. That Vanderbijlpark plant of ArcelorMittal has been the armpit of Africa for years and they are still not using any form of deodorant to get rid of the stench emanating from that armpit. Evraz Highveld Steel & Vanadium is exactly the same. Take a look at the picture at the bottom of this page. That’s it , right alongside the highway and just on the outskirts of Witbank. Driving to Dullstroom where trout thrive in the clear and cool sparkling waters in the area, you have to switch on your fog lights when approaching Witbank if you want to emerge alive on the other side of the smoke barrier. In winter, you don’t dare go near the place. Instead, you pack the trout you’ve caught in Dullstroom into a cooler box and travel back to Johannesburg taking the safer, albeit it longer route via Zimbabwe.

Cheers smoke and the quicker you go the better!

Cheers smoke and the quicker you go the better!

Eskom’s Grootvlei power station situated alongside the N3 is no better. It looks like its competing for the ‘˜Gunk Spewer of the Year Award’ with the amount of smoke it spreads over the surrounding mielie fields before sending it up to bomb the ozone layer into oblivion. And then there’s poor UD Trucks in Rosslyn. While this truck manufacturer, in line with most overseas truck suppliers, is trying so hard to get clean burning engines onto the market, it lives next to an SA Breweries plant that spews black smoke from two towering chimneys on a 24/7 basis. When attending the launch of the newly branded UD Trucks in September last year, I noticed those chimneys puffing away like a group of formerly disadvantaged elitists in a Rosebank cigar lounge. The only difference being that in the cigar lounge, Johnny Blue is being consumed while in the SA Breweries plant, the more humble Black Label is being brewed. I thought at the time that it might just be a short maintenance phase while changing the filters in the chimneys. But no. I revisited the plant in February this year and there they were , still spewing it out. It’s no wonder UD Trucks keeps its engines wrapped in plastic before going onto the production plant. The emissions from the neighbouring plant’s chimneys would clog up the injectors if they didn’t.

It's no wonder UD Trucks in Rosslyn keeps its engine wrapped in plastic given the yuk emanating from the SA Breweries chimneys next door.

It’s no wonder UD Trucks in Rosslyn keeps its engine wrapped in plastic given the yuk emanating from the SA Breweries chimneys next door.

So where is the priority? I’m confused. Can anyone help? Why are cars and trucks being targeted as the real bad guys when companies such as these are carrying on with their dastardly polluting deeds with impunity? And it’s not as if they don’t have the money to clean up their acts. Whoa! Correction – let’s leave Eskom out of that statement. But the boss-man of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal, is certainly not short of a few bucks being currently rated – as of March 10, 2011 – in the Forbes List of Billionaires as the 6th richest person in the world with a personal net worth of US$31.1-billion. That’s R211.7-billion , just a little over what our Government spent on the arms deal. It is estimated that one out of five cars in the world is made up of the steel materials of Lakshmi Mittal’s steel empire. On the local front, ArcelorMittal is also not doing too badly. Headline earnings per share last year improved from a loss of 104 cents in 2009 to a profit of 343 cents per share and the operating profit was R2.2-billion compared to R229-million the previous year (2009). Not too shabby.

comment-1 (1)Let’s now compare that to one of Europe’s biggest truck manufacturers, MAN Truck & Bus. Last year, on the back of the global economic recovery, revenue grew 22% to €14.7 billion (R144.5-billion) while operating profit doubled to €1,035 million (R10.2-billion). It’s not hard to do the sums. The personal net worth of the CEO and Chairman of Arcelor Mittal is R67.2-billion , yes billion – more than the total revenue earned by a major corporation like MAN Truck & Bus. Yet, I put forward that the latter is miles ahead of the former in taking action to clean up the environment through environmentally responsible manufacturing processes and final product applications. This has cost MAN billions of Euro in R&D fees. Perhaps now you can understand my confusion. Please will someone help me to understand these blatant environmental disparities? Thank you.

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