Replacing Oil- Indian Story

While going through Friedman’s ‘Hot, Flat, and Crowded’, I started pondering how’s India performing and preparing for the Energy Climate Era. There are certainly good news from different areas. I have at east one story to share. Latest ‘Economist’ has a report on the endeavours in India for bio-fuels.

D1-BP Fuel Crops, a joint venture between D1 Oils, a British bio-fuels firm, and BP, an energy giant, is promoting plantations of Jatropa in India. The black seeds of Jatropa yield a viscous oil that burns with a clear, clean flame. The oil can run a generator or a pump. Or it can be refined into bio-diesel that can fuel tractors, trucks or trains. Interestingly, Jatropa does not require good agricultural land nor require too much water rather regenerates dry and denuded soils, and create jobs for impoverished farmers. India accounts for about two-thirds of the world’s jatropha plantations, according to New Energy Finance, a research firm. By 2017 India aims to meet 20% of India’s diesel demand with fuel derived from plants rather than fossils.

Roshini International Bio Energy, a firm based in Hyderabad is working on ‘a more elegant rival in pongamia pinnata, or Indian birch’ for getting bio-fuel. Its seeds can yield about 30% of their weight in oil. The company has joined hands with the Andhra Pradesh government to plant the trees in three of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts an has an elaborate dream “to plant 1 billion trees on this planet.”

I have been interested in bio-fuels as it can make rural farmers self-sufficient for the fuel that they require for their farm equipment similar to the crop of mustard seeds that provides edible oil for their kitchen. I wish the Indian scientists carried on researches to make the bio-fuel plants more productive with better and faster yields, and the equipment manufacturers made the modifications to use the crude bio-fuels from the seeds without requiring sophisticated refining.

As reported, Indian Railways have a grand plan to run its diesel locomotives on bio-diesel from Jatropa grown in its own land. Wiith one of the largest producers of sugarcanes, ethanol can be another replacement for fossil fuels for India. If it can happen in Brazil, it can happen also in India.

There may be many skeptics about the potential of bio-fuels. However, the scientists of the country who can launch Chnadrayan and contribute in Big Bang experiment can also work and innovate ways to remove the hurdles of commercializing bio-diesel and ethanol that can easily save billions of petrodollars.


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