Biofuels and a Low Carbon Economy
Biofuels are plant and animal waste-derived oil/substances which are renewable in nature and used as a source of energy. These are not dependent on geographical factors and are readily available across the globe. Examples of such fuels are ethanol, methanol, green diesel, biogas and others.
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Biofuels are categorized into generations on the basis of their source. The first generation fuels are made from starch, sugar and vegetable oils. The second-generation biofuels are greener and developed from the organic feedstock. The third-generation biofuels are algal-based and are of high quality. Bioethanol and biodiesel are popular examples.
Recent developments in this field of renewable energy sources have made progress in the last decade. The extensive research to find alternatives to petrol and coal pushed us towards biofuels. Research has revealed that biofuels have a variety of economic uses like transportation, recycling farm waste, cleaning of oil spills and industrial uses. But what is the need of biofuels and why are several types of research being conducted in this arena?
NEED FOR BIOFUELS
The earth has witnessed a serious threat of increase in global temperatures and the melting of polar caps. The natural albedo is melting at a faster rate in this century compared to epochs before. This rise in global temperatures is due to multiple factors like an increase in GHGs, more trapping of insolation, depletion of the ozone layer and others. The main reason for the same is the anthropogenic industrial and vehicular emissions caused by the exploitation of natural fuels in the past century.
SOLUTIONS TO MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
To solve this issue, and to restrict the rise in global temperatures to 1.5-degree celsius, nations came together at multilateral platforms to discuss this serious issue.
Cleaner earth and a reduction in greenhouse gases have been a challenge. In 1992 UNFCCC was signed at the Earth summit / Rio conference which motivated leaders and researchers to look for cleaner fuel alternatives. Regularly held COP meetings (the formal meeting of the UNFCCC parties to assess progress in dealing with climate change) are also promoting climate protective measures and holding nations responsible for increasing GHG emissions. The 2015 Paris agreement and 1997 Kyoto protocol were the results of COP meetings. At present, the hopes are high with respect to COP 27, i.e Sharm-el-Sheikh Climate change Conference which will be conducted in November 2022 in Egypt, the developing nations are envisioning stronger leadership and better goals to mitigate climate change and its effects in this meeting.
The continuing increase in GHGs is also exaggerating the burden on economies across the globe. The rise in oil and gas prices, health expenses and unhealthy youth are burdening the exchequer so much that the developed nations have to spend a decent portion of their GDP to mitigate climate change and GHG release.
Interestingly, here, biofuels come into the picture with the intent to replace conventional oil and gas fuel and to create decarbonized economies. Biofuels are quoted as a better alternative to achieve the commitments made by nations and targets set by the UNFCCC. A few would claim the CO2 emission by biofuel combustion is also increasing the GHG amount in the atmosphere, and their claims are certainly valid. But, what one should make a note of, is that biofuel produces comparatively lesser CO2 in end-use emissions as compared to the life cycles of other non-renewable energy sources. A significant reduction of approximately 60-90% is observed in biodiesel and renewable hydrocarbon diesel than Petrol.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that by 2023, India would surpass China to take over as the world's third-largest producer of ethanol. India's surge in ethanol output is largely the result of policy changes made by India in recent years. The aim established by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas and NITI Aayog‘s 2021 report on ethanol blending is the most recent policy initiative on which the IEA's upbeat predictions for ethanol production from India are based. The mandated 10% ethanol blending (E10) in petrol throughout the country by April 2022 and roll out of 20% Ethanol blending (E20) in petrol by April 2023 were the targets and significant progress has been made under these commitments by the Government of India.
Moreover, the government of India changed the name of the Ministry of forest and environment to the Ministry of environment, forest and Climate change in 2019, showing the commitment of the political leadership to work towards mitigating climate change. In 2018 the National Policy on Biofuels was formulated by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the National Biofuel Coordination Committee was set up to supervise the productive usage of damaged and unfit food grains to produce ethanol.
Indian PM Narendra Modi stated that Biofuels along with making the economy cleaner will make India energy independent by 2047.
PM JI-VAN yojana, RUCO oil by FSSAI and GOBAR DHAN scheme are also promoting the use and production of biofuels making India a low-carbon economy.
Global leadership to reduce CO2 emission, proactive steps by citizens and youth organizations, local and regional steps towards climate change mitigation, increase in the usage of biofuels and other renewable energy sources, research and development in the area of e-vehicles along with stringent industrial inspections by the authorities can make the earth a better place and fulfill COP commitments in time.
BY RITIKA VERMA