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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Ethanol – a savior that gives savings


Source: Indian Express

  • Prelims: current events of national and interventions importance(ethanol, ethanol blending, International Energy Agency, G20, crude blending programme etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Conservation of Environment, Biodiversity and Environment(Environmental Pollution and pollutants and degradation)



  • International oil prices are surging, nearing $100 per barrel.
  • India’s import dependence on crude oil and products stood at 3(eighty seven point three)percent in FY2023, and 25.8(twenty five point eight)percent of the country’s import bill was spent on it





  • It is one of the principal biofuels, which is naturally produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts or via petrochemical processes such as ethylene hydration.
  • Since it is a plant-based fuel, ethanol is considered renewable.
  • Ethanol can be produced from sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc which are having high starch
  • In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by fermentation process.


Ethanol Blending:

  • An ethanol blend is a blended motor fuel containing ethyl alcohol that is at least 99% pure, derived from agricultural products, and blended exclusively with petrol.

Blending Target:

  • India has advanced the target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
  • India achieved 45% ethanol blending as on March, 2022.
  • Currently, 5% of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.

Objectives of Ethanol Blending:

  • Impact on Emission: Ethanol-blended petrol decreases emission of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • Energy Security:
  1. Increased use of ethanol will reduce the dependence on oil imports. Current net import cost stands at USD 551 billion(2020-21).
  2. The E20 program can save the country USD 4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.
  • It can incentivise farmers:
  1. Ethanol is procured by oil companies from farmers that benefits the sugarcane farmers.
  2. The plans to encourage use of water-saving crops particularly in water deficient areas such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.



  • India has the third-largest crude and product demand in the world.
  • International Energy Agency(IEA) estimates: Up to 20 percent of our total primary energy supply was met by biomass, and a large portion of it was used by households.


Steps taken to arrest the dependence on imported crude:

  • India launched an ethanol blending programme in 2003.
  • In 2022, India’s blending programme achieved the significant milestone of 10 percent ethanol blending in petrol.


Ethanol and energy demand:

  • Ethanol producers supplied nearly 430 crore liters of ethanol in 2022.
  • The demand for 20 per cent blending is set to increase India’s ethanol demand to nearly 1,100 crore liters by 2025.
    • It will require investments, and the ability to provide (and divert) the necessary feedstock for the domestic production of ethanol.
  • Nearly 60 percent of our petrol demand comes from two-wheelers, which cater to the mobility needs of citizens
    • 40 percent demand is from four-wheelers and this share is likely to increase
  • Study on urban India by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water: Nearly 55 percent of respondents indicated their desire (and need) to own a four-wheeler.
  • NITI Aayog report indicated a growth in petrol demand by over 45 percent by 2030, compared to 2021.


India’s supply of ethanol for the blending programme:


  • First-generation production – using underlying sugars in food crops, mostly sugarcane (84 percent) and grain (16 percent).
  • Second-generation (2G) technologies for ethanol production are immense.



The National Policy on Biofuels–2018

●    It provides an indicative target of 20% ethanol blending under the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme by 2030

●    It categorizes biofuels as “Basic Biofuels“, First Generation (1G) bio-ethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.

●    It allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee.

●    It indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.


E100 pilot project:

●    Inaugurated in Pune.

●    TVS Apache two-wheelers are designed to run on E80 or pure ethanol (E100).

Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana, 2019:

●    The scheme aims to create an ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and boost Research and Development in the 2G Ethanol sector.

GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) DHAN Scheme, 2018:

●    The scheme aims to positively impact village cleanliness and generate wealth and energy from cattle and organic waste.

●    It also aims at creating new rural livelihood opportunities and enhancing income for farmers and other rural people.


Way Forward

  • Global Biofuel Alliance under India’s G20 presidency must now convert this fuel into a form that can supply clean bio-energy to multiple end uses, improve energy security and get value for public spending.
  • The predominance of first-generation production and food-energy-water nexus considerations must be put into practice at the earliest.
  • Ethanol opens up a new income stream for the farming community by way of assured procurement
  • India needs a robust assessment of these tradeoffs, and a clear research and development plan for 2G technologies, before it can scale up ethanol production.
  • Even in diversifying our fuel base, the primary focus of policy must be to slow down the overall consumption of petrol in the economy and address the private demand for the fuel.
  • Targeted promotion of EVs in public transit and pricing the use of private vehicles in urban settings could ease the transition to higher levels of biofuels.



Discuss several ways in which microorganisms can help in meeting the current fuel shortage.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)