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Q.13- Determine whether an Ethanol Blending Program is required in India. What are the difficulties India shall face? Also provide a sustainable road map for the same. (250 words)

Paper & Topic: GS III à Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports,  

  Railways etc.

 

  • Model Answer:

 

  • Introduction:

 

  • Ethanol is a biofuel, which means it is made from organic stuff.
  • The majority of the car fuels we use come from the gradual geological process of fossilisation, which is why they're also called fossil fuels.
  • In India, ethanol is made mostly from sugarcane using a fermentation process.
  • Because ethanol has a high oxygen level, it permits an engine to burn gasoline more thoroughly. It can be added with various amounts of fuel to help reduce vehicle emissions.
  • It is also called a renewable fuel because it is made from plants.

 

  • Body:

 

  • India's Ethanol Blending Program:

 

  • "In 2001, the Centre initiated pilot projects in which 5 percent ethanol blended gasoline was delivered to retail outlets," according to the report.
  • The success of field trials led to the creation of the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Program in January 2003, which allowed for the sale of 5% ethanol blended gasoline in nine states and four UTs.
  • In India, 5% of ethanol is currently combined with gasoline.
  • The Indian government has pushed out the deadline for blending 20% ethanol into gasoline (commonly known as E20) from 2030 to 2025. E20 will be available in April 2023.
  • A study by an expert committee on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025 was also released by the central government.
  • The plan suggests a phased introduction of ethanol-blended fuel, with E10 fuel being available by April 2022 and E20 fuel being available from April 2023 through April 2025.

 

  • Ethanol Blending is Required in India:

 

  • Ethanol has become one of India's top priorities in the twenty-first century.
  • India is interested in blending 20% ethanol into gasoline for a variety of reasons.
  • For starters, it has the potential to save $4 billion a year, or Rs 30,000 crore, on motor fuel imports.
  • Second, it allows farmers to make additional cash by growing vegetables that aids in the manufacturing of ethanol.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ethanol is less polluting than other fuels and "offers equal efficiency at a cheaper cost than petrol," according to the NITI Aayog study.
  • According to the expert group, using ethanol-blended gasoline reduces emissions of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), and nitrogen oxides (NOx). E20 fuel resulted in greater CO emission reductions, with two-wheelers emitting 50% less CO and four-wheelers emitting 30% less CO.
  • The paper emphasises that "availability of large arable land, rising production of foodgrains and sugarcane leading to surpluses, availability of technology to produce ethanol from plant-based sources, and feasibility of making vehicles compliant to ethanol blended petrol make E20 not only a national imperative, but also an important strategic requirement," highlighting India's opportunity to embrace ethanol.
  • In Europe, biofuels have been viewed as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions from road transport because they are CO2-neutral fuels when lifetime emissions are taken into account.

 

  • The following are the difficulties to be faced:

 

  • Inadequate Output:

 

  • At the moment, domestic bioethanol production is insufficient to meet the demand for bioethanol for blending with gasoline at Indian OMCs.
  • Sugar mills, which are the primary domestic bio-ethanol suppliers to OMCs, were only able to meet 57.6% of overall demand.
  • Sugar mills are unable to invest in biofuel facilities due to a lack of financial security.
  • Investors are also concerned about the future price of bioethanol, which is unpredictable because both sugarcane and bioethanol prices are regulated by the national government.
  • E20-compatible cars: vehicles must be built with rubberized parts, plastic components, and elastomers that are compatible with E20, as well as engines that are optimised for usage with E20."
  • According to the NITI Aayog document, the country's new two-wheelers and passenger vehicles are "optimised for E5 (5 percent ethanol blend with gasoline)," while rubber and plastic components are "compatible with E10 fuel."

 

  • Water Footprint:

 

  • While India has become one of the world's leading producers of ethanol, it still trails far behind the top producers, the United States and Brazil, in terms of water efficiency.
  • India's ethanol-production water requirements are not covered by rainwater, and groundwater is exploited for drinking and other purposes.
  • The water footprint, or how much water it takes to make a litre of ethanol, includes rainwater at the root zone, which is consumed by ethanol-producing plants like sugarcane, as well as surface, ground, and fresh water needed to wash away impurities.

 

  • Scarce Sugarcane Availability:

 

  • Sugarcane is another limited resource that has an impact on the country's ethanol mixing. · Nearly one-tenth of the existing net sown land will have to be diverted for sugarcane cultivation in order to attain a 20% blend rate.
  • Any land demand of this nature is likely to put pressure on other crops and raise food costs.
  • Fuel requirements must not compete with food requirements, according to India's biofuel policy, and only surplus food crops should be used for fuel generation, if at all.

 

  • Lack of Alternatives:

 

  • While producing ethanol from agricultural residue is a viable option, the yearly capacity of biorefineries is insufficient to meet the 5% ethanol-to-petroleum blend requirement.
  • Other biofuels, such as Jatropha, have shown to be commercially unviable on numerous occasions.

 

  • Dealing with problems:

 

  • Because ethanol is a highly flammable liquid, it necessitates mandatory safety and risk assessment measures at all stages of production, storage, and transportation, raising the cost and risk factor.

 

  • Steps to take/Conclusion:

 

  • In order to introduce vehicles that are compatible, the committee recommends that E20 material-compliant and E10 engine-tuned vehicles be rolled out in April 2023 and E20 engine-tuned vehicles be produced in April 2025.
  • The Center should look for measures to lessen the program's reliance on sugarcane.
  • Biofuels made from alternative feedstocks such as agricultural waste and recycled cooking oil are more environmentally friendly.
  • It is necessary to concentrate on increasing the non-cane contribution to the ethanol mix, which can be accomplished by incentivizing both public and private entities to build second-generation ethanol plants.
  • As we move closer to greater ethanol blends, thorough monitoring and assessment of emissions changes will be required to ensure that emission reduction potential for both regulated and uncontrolled pollutants can be maximised.
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