Govt to soon unveil policy to promote biofuel production and use

The government will soon come out with a policy on biofuel production and use so as to encourage its use in automobiles, which at present mostly use fossil fuels, causing a spike in air pollution in India, minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan said on Thursday.

The new BioFuel Policy will take into consideration various facets like role of government, return on investment, minimum assurance etc, the minister said at a function to celebrate the World Biofuel Day.

Pradhan said the government plans investments of around Rs12,000 crore (approximately $2 billion) by public sector companies by way of R&D for setting up second generation (2G) biofuel refineries across the country.

Ways are being explored on conversion of urban and rural waste to fuel as also the use of waste / barren lands for cultivation of feedstock for 2G biofuels, the minister said.

He said the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and the ministry of new and renewable energy have been made jointly responsible for formulating a biofuel policy and that both the ministries will be working towards more utilisation of biofuels.

Pradhan said the potential for the biofuel industry in India would be around Rs1,00,000 crore in the next 1 to 2 years.

''We have to import crude for 80 per cent of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene needed to meet the demands and the cost is approximately Rs6,00,000 crore. We have to reduce this percentage to 10 per cent and produce biofuel in our own country,'' Pradhan said.

In order to give a major push to the use of biofuel by the automobile industry, the minister said that the government is looking to bring Rs1,00,000-crore investment in biofuel within a year.

''The government proposes to encourage farmers in Bundelkhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha to plant vegetation so that the waste can be used as raw materials for production of biofuel,'' added Pradhan.

Speaking at the function, minister of road transport and highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari stressed on the importance of biofuels as cost effective and environment friendly substitutes to conventional fuels.

He said besides bringing down pollution, biofuels produced indigenously from agricultural waste, plants like bamboo, non-edible oilseeds, or municipal waste will help reduce the country's huge import burden. In addition, it will also generate employment and boost the economy of rural areas, including the North East and the barren wastelands of the country. Gadkari said a Biofuel Policy will also be a major milestone in the socio-economic development of the country .

Talking about the transport sector the minister said the automobile growth in the country is an unsustainable 22 per cent. So efforts are on to promote public  transport based on cheaper and greener biofuels and electricity.