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Question – Bio-fuel is capable of providing comprehensive environmental, socio-economic and health benefits for communities. In the context of this statement, discuss the possibilities and its challenges associated with increasing the production of biofuels in India in detail. – 17 April
Bio-fuel is a hydrocarbon fuel produced from organic material in a short time. This differs from fossil-fuels, as fossil fuels take millions and millions of years to form. Biofuels are considered a renewable form of energy, and have lower greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.
This bio-fuel (ethanol, biodiesel and compressed bio-gas) has emerged as an important alternative tool to achieve India’s energy goals. This can be helpful in reducing dependence on imported crude oil and environmental pollution, as well as providing additional income to farmers and providing employment opportunities locally in rural areas.
As our country is moving towards sustainable energy resources, it is becoming a formidable challenge to coordinate between its various needs. These problems include reducing dependence on imported energy, connecting grids with green energy while maintaining power affordability, increasing employment opportunities, replacing outdated methods of energy generation, and more.
Energy Security and Bio-fuels:
Environmental Safety and Bio-fuels:
To control air pollution: A scheme called ‘Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation-SATAT’ was launched in October 2018 to set up an ecosystem for producing compressed bio-gas from various waste biomass sources.
- The “SATAT” scheme will not only help in curbing the emission of greenhouse gases, but it will also help in reducing the incidence of combustion of crop residues (e.g., stubble burning) etc. in the agricultural sector.
- One of the by-products from ‘compressed bio-gas’ plants is “bio manure”, which can be used in farming.
- At the same time it will be helpful in developing employment opportunities in the rural and waste management sector as well as increase their income through the use of unused bio-waste for the farmers.
Biofuels and Economic Security:
- Beneficial for sugar industry:Sugarcane and its by-products are the main raw materials used for ethanol production in India, responsible for 90% of oil production under the Ethanol Blending Program-EBP. This program is able to provide an alternative source of income to the farmers along with increasing capital in the sugar industry facing economic pressure.
- Diversification of Agricultural Markets: The current decision to use surplus maize and rice stored under the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in ethanol production means that farmers will get an alternative market for their produce.
- Income from wastelands: In terms of biofuels, under the ‘National Biofuels Policy-2018’, a target of 5% bio-fuel blending in conventional diesel is targeted by the year This policy encourages the establishment of a supply chain mechanism for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oils and short-term crops. These crops can also be produced easily in those areas of different states, which are either barren or not suitable for the production of food crops. Thus the production of crops marked for bio-fuel promotes agricultural income.
- Food security and increase in cost of food items: Many crops which are used by people in daily life either directly (human diet) or indirectly (as animal feed) mostly used as raw material in bio-fuel production. As a result of the use of these agricultural crops for bio-fuel, the area of agricultural land and the production of these crops will increase the use of polluting pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Also, due to increase in demand for such agricultural products, it is also possible to increase the price of food items.
- Technical limitations: The use of bio-fuel also contains many other types of technical problems, eg- the ability of the engine of the vehicle for long-term operation, etc.
- Deforestation and growth in agriculture (related to environment): The major crops used as raw materials required for the production of bio-fuels are grown on the land cleared from the forests. Such a change in the pattern of land use can increase the emission of greenhouse gases by releasing terrestrial carbon stocks into the atmosphere.
It is estimated that by 2030 the net availability of agricultural residues for biofuel production in India will be around 166.6 million tonnes. By the same year, the demand for ethanol for fuel blending (considering a target blending rate of 20%) would be around 13.7 million tonnes.