With a view to strengthen India’s energy security and reduce vehicular emissions, locally produced Ethanol, blended with petrol is set to make its way into people’s gas tanks. Achieving energy security and transitioning to a thriving low-carbon economy is critical for a growing nation like India. Aligning with this, Uttar Pradesh has emerged as India’s largest ethanol-producing state with a cumulative annual capacity of 58 crore liters, produced by 54 distilleries that are established across the state.
By blending low-carbon fuel, the Uttar Pradesh government was able to contribute to India’s forex reserve by saving a total of 75.58 million dollars, and in turn, providing a boost to the overall economy at the most challenging times.
Sustainability in Ethanol’s DNA
Ethanol, perhaps the most ubiquitous of the alternative biofuels, is environment friendly that aligns and conforms to stricter emission norms. By means of ethanol, India is in a quest to reduce its dependency on imported crude oil as well as to curb carbon footprints, as ethanol has the tendency to reduce carbon monoxide pollution by 35%. Unlike petrol, ethanol is not a byproduct of crude oil. Instead, it is a complex derivative of biomass left by agricultural feedstocks such as corn, sugarcane, hemp (bhang), potato, rice etc. Ethanol is extracted from sugarcane juice; from molasses – the black viscous product derived from refining sugarcane. These agricultural products are found in abundance and hence, the government has made a concerted effort to promote ethanol as an alternative fuel option. This has been reflected in the unveiling of the ambitious National Policy on Biofuels (2018).
It is to be noted that an additional payment of Rs 864 crore was sent to the accounts of sugarcane farmers from the sale of ethanol.
Reduction, Reuse, Recycle: Benefits of Ethanol
Apart from the obvious environmental benefits of Ethanol, domestic biofuel production and consumption can also help in reducing dependence on oil imports which, further, decreases the nation’s dependence on foreign energy.
Another add-on feature is that Ethanol is produced locally, and hence, the biofuel manufacturing plants can employ hundreds or thousands of workers, creating new job opportunities in rural areas. Biofuel production will also increase the demand for suitable biofuel crops, providing economic stimulation to the agriculture industry. The sugar mills distilleries of Uttar Pradesh had produced a record 1.77 crore liters of sanitizer which was not only supplied within the state but also exported to other states.
India targets 20% ethanol-blended fuel by 2025
An Ethanol blending target of 20% by 2030 has been preponed to 2025 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on International Environment Day (June %). Further, ethanol distillation capacities will double by the year 2025. In view of realizing these said targets, the government has identified 11 sectors that can stimulate resources by means of recycling and using modern technologies.
So far, an increase in India’s ethanol capacity from 1.53% during Ethanol Supply Year 2013-14 to 7.93% ongoing ESY 2020-21 has been announced in a Lok Sabha statement, during the monsoon session. Further, E-100 pilot projects have been launched in Pune city by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to enhance fuel choice and facilitate the sale of E-100 fuel.
From addressing climate challenges to doubling farmers Income to generating rural job opportunities, Ethanol and other Biofuels are a one-stop solution for agriculture and climate challenges.
The future prospects look promising as promotion of the use of biofuels in transportation in a country like India will help in reducing the crude import bill. A properly designed and implemented biofuel solution can provide both food and energy. Ethanol adoption, in all likelihood, will reduce our import bill and aid farm income in a massive way. India must keep its sights trained on a future where mobility will have a healthy and sustainable mix of EVs, hybrids, and biofuel-based vehicles.