PM says no to bio-fuel production out of foodgrains

April 13th, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Liz Mathew
On Board Air India Special Aircraft, April 12 (IANS) India may be engaging in serious discussion with Brazil over the bio-fuel production that would support its fuel sustainability. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is very particular that the country would not follow Brazil to use sugar for bio-fuel production. According to Vilasrao Muttemwar, the minister for non-conventional energy, who is accompanying President Pratibha Patil on her visit to Brazil, Mexico and Chile, Manmohan Singh has specifically asked his government not to use foodgrains for the production of bio-fuel in his country, which is facing an unprecedented inflation and shortage of foodgrains.

“The prime minister is very particular that we should not use foodgrains for producing ethanol or any bio-fuel even if we are facing energy crunch. We cannot afford that,” Muttemwar told IANS.

“He has also made it clear that we will grow the (bio-fuel producing) plants (like Jatroba) in waste lands and we should ensure that there would not be any diversification from the traditional cultivation,” he said, adding that the country has around 35 million hectares waste land that can be used for cultivation of such plants.

The government has proposed to constitute a bio-fuel board to formulate and implement a comprehensive plan for the production of alternative energy sources.

However, president Patil was not very forthcoming over the country’s stance on it.

When asked whether India will seek Brazil’s cooperation in producing ethanol from sugar, Patil said: “That is one point of discussion.”

But when pointed out that there has been a concern in the world about the increasing usage of food products to create the fuel that led to a foodgrain shortage, Patil admitted: “This is a matter of concern. Experts from both the countries will come together to discuss the matter.”

Economists have raised concern that the US move to use maize in the production of the ethanol was one of the reasons behind the current food crisis in the world.

India - like Brazil which imports 80 percent fuel - had taken interest in that country’s success in the usage of alternative fuel and has been discussing the issue. India, the second biggest producer of sugar after Brazil, mandated in 2003 that nine of its states add a five percent ethanol mix to petrol.

Eighty percent of two million cars made in Brazil have flexi-fuel engines and the country has reduced its requirement of petrol sustainability since then. It has also emerged as the lowest cost producer and leading global exporter of fuel ethanol. Ethanol now makes more than 20 percent of Brazil’s transport fuel market, while the use of alternative fuels in the rest of the world is a scant one percent.

“The sugar producing states use 10 percent ethanol in the fuel,” Vilasrao Muttemwar, minister of non-conventional energy, told IANS.

The usage of ethanol, which releases less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, will help to reduce the pollution in the air.

“But how can a country like India, where a section of its large population still face shortage for foodgrains, can use foodgrains for the production of fuel? We promote bio-fuels made of plants like Jatropha and energy out of indigenous natural resources,” the official said.

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