The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
The Union Cabinet Wednesday advanced by five years its target for achieving 20% ethanol blending in petrol. The amended National Biofuel Policy-2018 has now set the new target for 2025-26 instead of 2030, apart from allowing more feedstock for production of biofuels and export of biofuels in specific cases.
India’s Blending policy
- Introduced in 2018, the National Biofuel Policy is aimed at reducing dependence on imports by encouraging fuel blending. With bioethanol, biodiesel and bioCNG in focus, its key parts include Ethanol Blending Programme (EPB), production of second generation ethanol (derived from forest and agricultural residues), increasing capacity for production of fuel additives, R&D in feedstock, which is the starting material for ethanol production, and financial incentives for achieving these goals.
- After setting a 20% blending target for 2030 initially, the central government had announced premium rates for ethanol produced from sugar syrup, cane juice as well as B heavy molasses. Molasses is the sticky liquid formed during sugar production from cane juice, and depending on the percentage of sugar left, it is categorized as B heavy and C. Molasses is the feedstock used by sugar mills to produce ethanol.
- The policy also allows usage of excess rice or damaged foodgrains as feedstock for ethanol production.
- The most important amendment has been advancing the 20% blending date by five years from Ethanol Supply Year (ESY) 2030 to 2025-26.
- Introduction of more feedstock for production of biofuels; production of biofuels under the ‘Make in India’ programme in Special Economic Zones, Export Oriented Units; and permission to allow export of biofuels in specific cases are some other changes.
- Apart from addition of new members to the NBCC, the Committee has now been given the permission to change the policy which it earlier lacked.
What does it ensure energy security
- Given the skyrocketing fuel prices, the blending programme has a dual purpose – to reduce the crude oil import bill and to allow consumers access to environment friendly fuel.
- For this, Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have already been mandated to buy ethanol from sugar mills and clear payments within 21 days. The decision would help sugar mills diversify their portfolios faster from just sugar production and become self-reliant in paying cane-growers.
- Risk of Hunger
- Cost of Biofuels
- Lesser efficiency of biofuels
- Water usage for irrigation
- Food production must take precedence over agricultural production owing to dwindling groundwater supplies, arable land limits, irregular monsoons, and declining crop yields due to climate change.
- Alternative Mechanism: Alternative mechanisms, such as increased electric vehicle adoption, the construction of extra renewable generation capacity to allow zero-emission recharging, and so on, must be explored in order to fulfil the main aim of emissions reduction.
- Ethanol from Wastes: If India refocuses on ethanol derived from wastes, it has a real chance to become a global leader in sustainable biofuels policy. Because these wastes are now burnt and contribute to pollution, this would have significant climate and air quality advantages.
- Water Crisis: The new ethanol strategy should avoid driving farmers toward water-intensive crops and causing a water deficit in a country where there is already a severe shortage. Rice, sugarcane, and wheat require over 80% of India’s irrigation water.
How to structure
- Give a brief intro about ethanol blending
- Explain in detail about the policy
- Analyse how it helps India in achieving energy security
- Mention challenges and suggest way forward