Food vs. Fuel Trade-off and Ethanol Blending in India:
Q: What is the concept of "food vs. fuel" trade-off in the context of ethanol blending in India?
A: The "food vs. fuel" trade-off refers to the potential conflict between using agricultural crops for producing biofuels, such as ethanol, and using the same crops for food production. When crops like sugarcane and grains are used to produce ethanol for blending in petrol, it diverts these crops from the food supply chain, potentially affecting food availability and prices.
Q: How is India promoting ethanol blending in petrol?
A: India has been gradually increasing the percentage of ethanol blending in petrol to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, decrease emissions, and promote cleaner energy. The government has launched E20 fuel, a petrol blended with 20% alcohol (ethanol), and aims to increase the adoption of efficient E20 use in vehicles.
Q: What are the challenges in scaling up ethanol blending in India?
A: One of the main challenges in scaling up ethanol blending is the limited supply of ethanol from distilleries, mostly using crops like sugarcane. There is a need to diversify the feedstock list to include surplus rice, maize, and other damaged food grains for ethanol production. However, increasing the production of ethanol without impacting food cultivation requires careful planning and management of resources like land and water.
Q: What are the projections for ethanol demand and production in India?
A: A roadmap published by Niti Aayog projected ethanol demand for petrol blending to be in the range of 7.2-9.2 billion liters in 2025, with a target of over 10 billion liters. The report also highlighted the need for 6 million tonnes of sugarcane and 16.5 million tonnes of grains per annum for ethanol production by 2025.
Q: Is the current pace of biofuel production sustainable without affecting food cultivation?
A: The current pace of biofuel production, especially ethanol blending, heavily relies on agricultural crops. Expanding biofuel capacity without impacting food cultivation requires careful planning and market-oriented reforms to ensure economic optimization and resource allocation. Slow expansion of crops for feedstock and limited availability of water pose challenges to achieving the desired scale of ethanol production.
Q: Will biofuels, including ethanol blending, become a significant part of India's energy mix?
A: While ethanol blending and biofuels have potential benefits, their scalability is limited due to their vast reliance on farms for feedstock. As long as fossil fuels remain in use, biofuels may face resistance from vehicle owners who must adjust their engines for blended fuel. Despite attempts to promote biofuels, they are likely to remain a side-show compared to the mainstream fossil fuels in India's energy mix.