Bio-fuels, electric cars don't suit India: Ramesh

Minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh came down against the use of bio-fuels in automobiles, saying food security concerns were the priority.
On the sidelines of an automobiles event in New Delhi, Ramesh said, ''We should take a cautious approach towards it (bio-fuel) as its production would require land and crops. It will be difficult as there are other needs like food security in the country.''
According to the minister, there are differences between India and other countries that produce bio-fuels, as the country is faced with enormous population and shortage of land. This precludes the mass production of bio-fuels, which are procured from crops, plants and trees, although such fuels are environment friendly and cleaner than fossil fuels.
''We are a country of a billion people adding ten million every year, and we have serious food security issues. Diverting land or crops for bio-fuels cannot be a sustainable option,'' the minister said.
His comments seem to contradict the union government's stand. The government has given a directive of blending of bio-fuel with diesel. In 2007, the government had mandated addition of 5 per cent of bio-fuel (ethanol) in diesel. An indicative target of 20 per cent blending of bio-fuels, both for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol, by 2017 has been proposed.
However, the environment minister had other options to suggest, like switching to compressed natural gas (CNG). He said the policies in the automobile sector need to change to promote greater use of CNG.
He said he favoured deregulation of diesel prices on the lines of petrol, so as to discourage its use and encourage the usage of non-pollutant fuels like CNG. "We have ended subsidising diesel for the automobile sector instead of the agriculture sector," he said.
Stressing the need for fuel efficiency standards in the auto sector by introducing clean technologies, he also questioned the automobile sector's plans to manufacture electricity-powered vehicles, making it clear that forests cannot be destroyed for extracting fuel to be used as power for locomotion.
"From where is the electricity going to come for use for locomotion purpose?" he asked. "There is no magic bullet. We are stuck with the present fuels such as petrol and diesel. In this background, we need to improve fuel quality and automobile standards."