‘Biofuel can ensure India’s energy security’

August 10th, 2008 - 10:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, Aug 10 (IANS) When Henry Ford fuelled his car with ethanol way back in the 1930s, some admired him while others considered it a stunt. Eight decades later, Indian experts working on biofuels as an alternative source of energy feel everyone can be a Ford. But there are many hurdles in the way as myths and misconceptions surround use of biofuel as an energy source.

“Myths and misconceptions about biofuels are coming in the way of promoting them as an alternative source of energy,” K.D. Gupta, chairman of the New Delhi-based Institute of Applied Systems and Rural Development (IASRD), told IANS on the sidelines of a seminar on Biofuel for Sustainable Growth here.

“We have to demystify the issues at stake to ensure our energy security in future,” Gupta observed.

Experts believe biofuel will be the best alternative to the energy crisis arising out of soaring crude prices and depletion of fossil fuels at a faster rate.

“Biofuel can make India self-sufficient in energy source as the product has been proven to be efficient, sustainable, cost-effective and pollution-free,” Karnataka Council for Technological Upgradation managing director N. Chandrasekhar said.

As a cleaner burning fuel produced from renewable resources like soybean oil, biofuel can be used alone or blended with other petroleum products like heating oil. It is biodegradable and can be domestically produced.

Other biofuels can be extracted from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants. Alcohol (from fermented sugar), black liquor from paper manufacturing process and wood are some of the sources of bio-organic fuel.

“Biofuels are renewable liquid fuels made from plant matter rather than fossil fuels. Primary biofuels are ethanol and bio-diesel. They help reduce air toxics emissions, greenhouse gas build-up and dependence on imported oil,” Gupta explained.

Gupta said biofuel plants such as Jatropha were best cultivated in wastelands and would not impact food production.

“We never encourage farmers to sow biofuel plants in fertile farmland. Plants like Jatropha, Hongai and Neem that yield biofuel require minimum water and maintenance. What’s more, animals or insects do not feed on them. And ethanol is a by-product of sugarcane,” Gupta pointed out.

Biofuel is cleaner than fossil fuels due to its lower sulphur content.

“As a future source of energy, biofuel has the potential to change urban transportation and bring about a revolution in rural India where farmers can use it to run tractors and derive biogas and organic manure as its residue for lighting, cooking and soil nutrient instead of using toxic fertilisers,” Gupta asserted.

Increasing use of biofuels will also enable India to lesson its dependence on oil imports, which account for 73 percent of total fuel consumption.

“The message is yet to spread across. We have decided to conduct sustained campaign across the country,” said S.C. Tripathi, IASRD chief patron and former secretary in the petroleum ministry.

“The country’s development is correlated to energy use. Once our energy requirements are met, growth can be ensured,” he added.

To propagate biofuel cultivation, IASRD has carried out extensive plantation of Jatropha in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.

State-run oil marketing firms like Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd have been using five percent of ethanol as an additive in petrol and diesel over the last couple of years.

“We want ethanol content to be increased by another 10 percent in petrol and diesel. The greater the use of ethanol, the more fossil fuels will be eco-friendly. Use of bio-diesel and bio-petrol do not require any change in the vehicle engine,” BPCL marketing manager Charles David affirmed.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Environment |