Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari is betting big on alternative fuels that will reduce India’s crude oil import bill and create additional sources of income for farmers, who comprise more than 50 per cent of the country's population.
Alternative fuels were cleaner and cheaper, he added.
Gadkari said the use of ethanol, methanol, bio-compressed natural gas, dimethyl ether and electricity should be increased as alternatives to crude oil, 70 per cent of which has to be imported.
“The benefit of these alternative fuels is that its raw material is available in the country and can be sourced in large quantities from the agricultural sector. It will help farmers increase their income too,” Gadkari said.
Speaking about the financial strain crude oil imports place on the country, Gadkari said: “We spend Rs 7 trillion annually to import crude oil. The economy is facing challenges, one of which includes the heavy crude import bill. The fall in the value of rupee against US dollar is also related to this.”
He said increasing production of oil within the country has its limitations, adding, imports comprise 70 per cent of crude oil demands, while domestic generation stood at only 30 per cent.
“At present, ethanol is received from sugar mills and we mix five per cent of it with petrol. This mix can be raised up to 22 per cent, but we do not produce ethanol in large quantity. Currently, we get about four per cent ethanol after crushing one tonne of sugarcane,” Gadkari said.
The government allowed the use of B-heavy molasses for ethanol production to increase its production, he added. “Once ethanol availability goes up, we can blend more of it with petrol.”
He, however, is not satisfied with these small steps. He said he has decided to go for vehicles that are capable of running on 100 per cent ethanol or methanol.
“The US and Canada make flex-engines (dual-fuel engines) for buses and other transport vehicles. We can use 100 per cent petrol or ethanol in the same engine. The policy is ready for it. Its implementation will start in a few months,” he said.
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