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Biofuels : Socio-Economic Change Agents in the Push for Clean Energy

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Biofuels production affects people in many different ways, from its social and economic effects to its environmental and health effects. Thus, the development of any policy on biofuels should take into account the various ethical and social issues that arise when individuals and communities feel the effects of that policy. The mandate for ethanol blending in India has to be strengthened and a roadmap to achieve 20 percent mix in three years formulated.

Transport accounts for about 30 percent of the world’s energy use, and biofuels are currently a small proportion of that. Some studies predict that biofuels could make up around 9 to 10 percent of world transport use by 2020.

Biofuels are attractive for a number of reasons, she said. Many countries are interested in them because they could provide a path to energy security and energy independence from the countries that today produce much of the world’s energy. Biofuels also have the potential to promote further economic development, both in developed countries and in the developing world. In Europe, the main reason for turning to biofuels, she said, is their potential to help in the mitigation of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A number of policies and targets have been implemented over the past decade to encourage the use of biofuels, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard in the United States and, in Europe, the European Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive, which mandate that by 2020, 10 percent of all transport energy needs to be from renewable sources and all transport emissions need to be reduced by 6 percent.

According to Peder Holk Nielsen, President and CEO, Novozymes-South Asia, said that biofuels can be strong socio-economic change agents and make financial sense too. “ Increased use of biofuels will reduce petrol and diesel imports,” he said.

India’s fuel imports are pegged at ₹6 lakh crore. Diesel consumption could rise to 150 billion litres by 2030 from 90 billion litres currently.

Biofuels are an important component in the push for clean energy. This is critical for India which is set to outpace China as the world’s largest energy consumer. Conversion of biomass and biowaste to pellets can be a good option for gas, stated Nielsen.

For example, in Sweden, methane is being generated from sewage to make bio-CNG to run buses.

“There is an opportunity to convert buses to run on electric power or biofuels,” he noted..

Novozymes is involved in the second generation ethanol initiative by the Indian government.

This involves using plant fibrous material and agricultural residues as raw material for ethanol production. Novozymes’ enzymes help convert agricultural residues to ethanol.

Also of importance is the need for flexibility of feedstocks. Ethanol can be made from a variety of feedstock such as sugarcane, sweet sorghum and the likes, said Nielsen.

India co-leads the Mission Innovation (MI) programme — a global initiative of 22 countries and the European Union — to accelerate innovation in the area of clean energy across the world. However, there are still challenges as new biofuels still remain at an early-commercial stage of development.

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