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Nano Technology

In today’s Washington Post is this report about how terrible it is that countless more Indians will be able to afford automobiles now that Tata has introduced its Nano, priced at $2,500.   Chief among the laments, of course, is the fact that such prosperity will result in the creation of more greenhouse gases.  (But Mira Kamdar, the author, rather inconsistently also frets that such an inexpensive car might further diminish the U.S. auto industry.)

For a much more clear-headed assessment of what the Nano means for ordinary Indians, read this blog post by Barun Mitra.  Here are some key paragraphs:

surprisingly, there are many who have expressed concerns about the
prospect of the masses accessing personal automobiles. The issues they
raise range from the impact on oil prices and a concern for global
warming, to traffic congestion. Most such commentators have not
been known to eschew their personal automobiles, or other
modern conveniences, but have no qualms in frowning upon the masses
enjoying some of the same benefits. This desire to keep others off the
life-boats of their standard of living is a common feature of many who
claim to have social or environmental concern in their hearts. One fact
worth reminding them of is that transportation is one of the biggest
expenses faced by rural poor seeking health care.

opposition to Nano is also an illustration of the head-in-the-sand
mind-set, which pits rising demand for consumption against
environmental conservation.

In fact, as more Indians are able to
afford more cars, the scale of consumption will help improve the
technology, improve efficiency and clean up the environment. It is not
a coincidence, that
ascent up the world auto league has been accompanied by its pioneering
efforts in new technologies and innovation. Though counter-intuitive,
it is true of most areas of enterprise that only enhanced scales
of consumption lead to improvement in efficiency – in this case, easily
measured by tail-pipe emission. It is worth noting that while Toyota sold well over 9 million vehicles in 2007, Tata Motors took ten years to sell its millionth passenger car.