National Policy on Biofuels 2018 - UPSC Notes - Environment - Thought Chakra

National Policy on Biofuels 2018 – UPSC Notes – Environment

In 2009, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy crafted a National Policy on Biofuels to address India’s heavy dependence on imported crude oil for meeting domestic needs. The National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 holds significance in GS-2 of the UPSC exam.

National Policy on Biofuels

  • Global Attention: Biofuels have gained significant global attention recently, necessitating keeping abreast of developments in this field.
  • Strategic Importance in India: Biofuels hold strategic importance in India and align with the Government’s initiatives.
  • Heavy Reliance on Crude Oil Imports: India heavily depends on imported crude oil to meet its domestic consumption needs.
  • Impact of Crude Oil Price Fluctuations: Fluctuations in world crude oil prices could have substantial effects on developing countries like India.
  • Challenges in Feedstock Availability: The Indian biofuels program faces challenges due to the sustained and insufficient availability of domestic feedstock for production.
  • National Biofuels Draft Policy: The National Biofuels Draft Policy emerged in 2007 and was officially launched by 2009.
National Policy on Biofuels 2018

The National Policy on Biofuels 2018 aims to advance the target of achieving 20% blending of biofuels with fossil-based fuels by 2030.

It seeks to guarantee the adequate and sustained availability of domestic feedstock for biofuel production, boosting farmers’ income, reducing imports, generating employment, and creating wealth from waste.

This policy underscores the Centre’s commitment to fortifying the energy infrastructure of the nation while advocating sustainability.

Salient Features of the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018

The salient features of the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 include:

  • Categorization of biofuels into:
    • Basic biofuels – First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel
    • Advanced biofuels – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and drop-in fuels
    • Third Generation Biofuels – Bio-CNG

The categorization facilitates the provision of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives for each category.

The policy expands the raw material scope for ethanol production, permitting the use of Sugarcane Juice, sugar-containing materials like Sugar Beet, starch-containing materials like Cassava, damaged food grains like broken rice, and rotten potatoes unsuitable for human consumption.

It allows the utilization of surplus food grains for ethanol production to ensure fair prices for farmers during surplus production phases.

The policy introduces a viability gap funding scheme of Rs. 5000 crore over 6 years for 2G ethanol Bio refineries, along with additional tax incentives and higher purchase prices compared to 1G biofuels, emphasizing Advanced Biofuels.

Encouragement is given for the establishment of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oil, and short gestation crops.

It delineates the roles and responsibilities of all concerned Departments/Ministries to ensure synergy in biofuels efforts.

Benefits of National Policy of Biofuels, 2018

The National Policy of Biofuels, 2018 offers the following benefits:

  • Reduction in Import Dependence: Decreases the country’s reliance on imports.
  • Promotion of Cleaner Environment: Leads to a decline in crop burning by converting agricultural waste/residue into bioethanol.
  • Reuse of Cooking Oil: Despite presenting health hazards, used cooking oil serves as a potential feedstock for biodiesel.
  • Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Management: Technologies exist to convert waste/plastic in MSW into biofuels, with the potential for around 20% fuel reduction per ton of waste.
  • Job Creation: The biofuels production process fosters the creation of jobs.
  • Surplus Grains and Agricultural Biomass Utilization: Converting surplus grains and agricultural biomass aids in price stabilization and offers additional income to farmers.

What are Biofuels?

A hydrocarbon fuel derived directly or indirectly from organic matter is termed Biofuel. Typically produced through contemporary processes from biomass, biofuels serve as substitutes for conventional fossil fuels.

Rising oil prices, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and depletion of non-renewable fuel sources drive the transition towards sustainable fuel alternatives.

The term biofuel predominantly refers to liquid or gaseous fuels utilized for transportation purposes.

How are Biofuels categorized?

Biofuels are classified into First Generation, Second Generation, Third Generation, and Fourth Generation biofuels.

First Generation Biofuels: Typically derived from food sources like sugar, starch, vegetable oil, or animal fats, utilizing conventional technology. Examples include Bioether. However, their reliance on agricultural crops may contribute to increased food prices and hunger.

Second Generation Biofuels: Utilize inedible plant parts such as stems and husks, requiring biochemical or thermochemical conversions. While they do not impact the food economy, their production process is complex. Examples include Biodiesel, emitting fewer greenhouse gases compared to first-generation biofuels.

Third Generation Biofuels: Produced using microorganisms like algae, grown on land and water unsuitable for food production, thus reducing strain on depleted water resources. Examples include Butanol.

Fourth Generation Biofuels: Involves genetically modified plants capable of absorbing and storing higher carbon amounts, converted into biofuels via chemical or thermochemical conversions. The captured carbon is geo-sequestered, making these fuels carbon neutral. Examples include Electrofuels.

Advantages of Biofuels

Biofuels offer a myriad of advantages, with their primary one being the green shift away from conventional non-renewable fossil fuels. Other key benefits include:

  • Availability: Biofuels rely solely on biomass for production, which is abundant, making biofuel production easy.
  • Reduction in Waste: Utilizing waste materials such as municipal sewage and inedible crop parts for biofuel production contributes to waste reduction.
  • Reduced Dependency: Biofuels help decrease reliance on crude oil and other non-renewable fuel sources.
  • Economic Development: Biofuel production, often a labour-intensive process, fosters job creation. Establishing second-generation biofuel production units in rural areas can stimulate economic development and provide employment opportunities.

Disadvantages of Biofuels

Several disadvantages are linked to the production and usage of biofuels, including:

  • Efficiency: Biofuels exhibit lower efficiency compared to fossil fuels, yielding less energy upon combustion.
  • Loss of Biodiversity: Genetically modified crops utilized for fourth-generation biofuels may lead to biodiversity loss.
  • Availability of Space: Biofuel production necessitates land, particularly for second-generation biofuels, which often utilize non-food crops, demanding significant space.
  • Food Shortage: First-generation biofuels utilize food sources, posing a potential threat of food shortage with extensive biofuel production.
  • Water Usage: Biofuel crop cultivation and manufacturing entail massive water consumption, potentially straining local and regional water resources. This concern is less prominent with third-generation biofuels.

FAQs on National Policy on Biofuels 2018

Q1: What is the Objective of the National Policy on Biofuels 2018?

A: The objective of the National Policy on Biofuels 2018 is to advance the target of achieving 20% blending of biofuels with fossil-based fuels by 2030.

Q2: What is a drop-in fuel?

A: A drop-in fuel is a synthetic and fully interchangeable substitute for conventional petroleum-derived hydrocarbons such as gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel. This means it does not require any adaptation of the engine, fuel system, or the fuel distribution network.

Q3: On what basis are the biofuels categorized?

A: Biofuels are categorized into four types: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation biofuels. They are classified based on their biomass sources, their status as a renewable energy source, and their technological advancements.

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