It sure ain't easy, or cheap, to be green

The TV was running in the background the other night when U.S.

The TV was running in the background the other night when U.S. actor Ben Affleck appeared on screen, urging viewers to download their music online.

No, he wasn't plugging a BitTorrent ad. Affleck was driving a green campaign to get people to buy their music via the Web, instead of consuming them on polycarbonate CDs that have to be shipped across the globe by carbon-emitting airplanes and trucks.

I'm not exactly an audiophile, but I enjoy visiting music stores and browsing the shelves for new albums. I also have a CD collection that I've been cultivating over the years, and it's nice to be able to let my friends easily scan through the titles I own--without having to first boot up my computer, if I had downloaded all my music online.

That said, I would still like to do my part in reducing my carbon footprint. I don't mind purchasing some music online, especially if I only like that one song from a particular album.

Thing is, though, broadband access services still don't come cheap.

I pay a monthly fee of almost S$60 (US$39.6) for my broadband service, which is supposed to give me a download speed of up to 8Mbps. But, on some nights when Web traffic is at its busiest, it can take 15 minutes just to download a 4MB file, and an hour for a 70MB game patch. Ridiculous? I think so, too, but at least it allowed me to reminisce my days on dial-up.

When I queried my service provider about the lag, it said there was nothing wrong with the connection and suggested instead that I upgraded to a package that will give me higher transfer speeds. But I thought that was why I got on broadband in the first place.

If it's gonna cost me more to download my music online, when I can purchase an entire album on a CD for less than S$20, or S$10 for older titles, then there's little reason for me to change my music consumption habits.

And that's the biggest problem challenging green adoption today.

Take Singapore, for instance. A debate had ensued last year over taxes for driving hybrid vehicles in the island-state. While the local government offers what it calls a Green Vehicle Rebate, the subsidy pales in comparison to the road taxes hybrid car owners would have to pay.

Taxes for these eco-friendly vehicles are calculated based on their power output, instead of engine capacity for petrol cars. That puts the cost of maintaining a hybrid car some 20 to 30 percent higher than an equivalent petrol car. According to a local blogger's calculation, owning a 3,311cc-engine hybrid would cost S$2,278 more each year, compared to an equivalent petrol car. That's US$1,505 more a year simply for driving a more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicle, and amid other campaigns calling for Singaporeans to be more "green".

If governments around the world are serious about encouraging their population to reduce their carbon footprint, and act more responsibly toward preserving the environment, then they need to start by looking at where it matters most--the consumer's pocket.


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