|| Biofuels as Promising Substitutes for high Carbon Energy Sources.
Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh
“Nature Runs on Sunlight.
Nature uses only the energy it needs.
Nature fits form to function.
Nature recycles everything.
Nature rewards cooperation.
Nature banks on Diversity.
Nature demands local expertise.
Nature curbs exercises from within.
Nature taps the power of limits.”
In a super-sized country that is ours, the demands for energy and the challenges
of the supply of the same is becoming bigger and worse. India really and
desperately needs to generate more energy.
A diversity rich country that is India needs the diversity of Energy sources:
Our civilization is a practical model on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are
necessary for all the activities today including the food we eat. It is
unimaginably tough to think of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels. Is fossil
fuel the only source of energy for the growth and development including the
industrial revolution? The answer is an absolute NO. However, yes, in our world
where cheap fossil fuels killed off early renewable energy technologies. By the
way can we imagine today a world without fossil fuels? It’s very difficult to
hypothesize. Yes we can tap the hydroelectricals and biomasses which are the
main alternatives in the near future in terms of cost and availability. Biomass
fuels, hydrogen fuels, solar powers and wind mills shall surely adorn the
vehicles, factories, homes and all the institutions. These alternatives of an
alternative world will also bring forth equally difficult challenges. As for
example elaborate and extensive damming of the rivers shall cause unprecedented
environmental and social conflicts. Wars will .be fought not only between the
countries but also within the nation itself over the issue of the sites of
installing the hydropower potential sites just like the wars that happened on
the sites of oil sources. Hence our surest way to reduce the differences and to
allow the coexistence is to allow the coexistence of different sources of energy
alternatives as well as conventional sources and technologies with newer
insights and innovations so that their coexistence take care of the sustainable
development and inheriting a safe and a secure future. The World Bank’s
agreement to help India to promote India’s initiative for expanded solar
generation and more especially in India-led International Solar Alliance (ISA)
is a very welcome opportunity towards the greener pathways to fuel India’s
development. Here in this essay an
attempt has been made to share the history and the possible utilization of the
biofuels as one of the means and ways in the midst of all the sources of energy
to take up the challenges made by the ever energy hunger masses of today and the
possible energy thirsty future generations.
The need for the conservation and maintenance
of the diverse sources of energy in our country also arises from the fact that
the newer sources and mode of production established and developed in some
institutions and regions are not well adapted to the other regions. The sources
and mode of production of energy which look good in some places may not work
well in some other places. Hence designing technologies for the diversity and
affordability or accessibility is said to be more difficult than sending
satellites. Introduction of expensive solar cookers, solar lamps and hydrogen
fuels where there is no infrastructure for repairing is an uphill task.
Till the 18th century the major
source of energy was the solar power captured by plant-biomass. The energy
needed to till the land and do agriculture came from the food consumed by
animals or laborers. The energy to make grasses into food came from wood.
India being one of the fastest growing economies in the world our Development Objectives need to be focused on
economic growth, equity and human well being. Energy is without an iota of doubt
a critical input for socio-economic development. Renewable energy resources are
indigenous, non-polluting and virtually inexhaustible and our country is endowed
with abundant renewable energy resources. Hence the use of the renewable
resources should be promoted and accelerated in all possible ways. Our energy
security would be hastened if alternative fuels are developed and promoted based
on indigenously produced renewable feedstock. Biofuels shall surely bring a ray
of hope in providing energy security.
facts of Biofuels
or gaseous fuels produced from biomass resources and used in place of, or in
addition to, diesel, petrol or other fossil fuels for transport, stationary,
portable and other applications;
biodegradable fraction of products, wastes and residues from agriculture,
forestry and related industries as well as the biodegradable fraction of
industrial and municipal wastes.
Ethanol produced from biomass such as sugar containing materials, like sugar
cane, sugar beet, sweet sorghum, etc.; starch containing materials such as corn,
cassava, algae etc.; and, cellulosic materials such as bagasse, wood waste,
agricultural and forestry residues etc.
methyl or ethyl ester of fatty acids produced from vegetable oils, both edible
and non-edible, or animal fat of diesel quality
Biofuels are derived from renewable bio-mass resources and, therefore,
provide a strategic advantage to promote sustainable development and to
supplement conventional energy sources in meeting the rapidly increasing
requirements for transportation fuels associated with high economic growth, as
well as in meeting the energy needs of India’s vast rural population. Biofuels
can increasingly satisfy these energy needs in an environmentally benign and
cost effective manner and help reducing dependence on malignant import of fossil
fuels and thereby providing a higher degree of National Energy Security. Energy
security and environmental concerns have been strongly responsible for the
growth of biofuels around the globe. A good number of market mechanisms,
incentives, subsidies have already accelerated this growth by putting end to the
initial inertia. Developing countries are promoting the growth of the biofuels
with an additional view that biofuels are the potential means to stimulate rural
development and create opportunities for jobs.
Many developed countries pursue
aggressive policies for encouraging the production and use of biofuels. There
are strong apprehensions that as more and more land is brought under biofuel
crops, food prices would increase substantially affecting poor consumers,
particularly those from low-income net food importing countries. However
the use of the biofuels and the way India is promoting biofuels is different
from the current international approaches so that promotion of biofuels does not
lead to food security. In India biofuels are based on non-food feedstock to be
raised on degraded or wastelands that are not suited to agriculture. The use of
biofuels in India is not new. Jatropa oil has been in use in rural areas for
quite many decades in diesel generators and engines. Very interestingly the
jatropa seed oil can be used without refining directly in the diesel engines.
The picture sowing Jatropha curcas (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jatropha_curcas5_henning.jpg)
Seeds from the Jatropha curcas plant are used for the production of bio-fuels, a crucial
part of India’s plan to attain energy sustainability. Jatropha has the unique
potential provided proper incentives and directions are formulated and
implemented by the stakeholders including the farmers, scientists and policy
makers. The total requirement of the biodiesel in our country is projected today
to be very high. With the positive and increasingly successful performance of
the domestic automobile industry which is catching up with the global
competitors the market for the biodiesel is emerging. This indicates that the
total coverage of the land as of today by the fuel yielding plants which stands
at 5000sq km is going to be increased and made more efficient and farmer
friendly. According to the ‘National Biofuel Policy’ the Indian Government aims
to meet 20per cent of the country’s diesel demand with fuel derived from plants.
This will require setting aside 140,000 square kilometers of land –a momentous
task and a momentous opportunity. The government presently is implementing
ethanol-blending program and considering initiatives in the form of mandates for
biodiesel. Such strategies accompanied by the rising population and growing
energy demand from the transport sector makes the
biofuel market is a promising field of opportunities.
Shrub or tree to 6 m, with spreading
branches. Ranging from Tropical Very Dry
to Moist through Subtropical Thorn to Wet Forest Life Zones. India has the
perfect habitats for the plant.
Grows readily, from cuttings or seeds. Cuttings strike root so easily that the
plant can be used as an energy-producing living fence post.
For medicinal purposes, the seeds are harvested as needed. For energy purposes,
seeds might be harvested all at once, the active medicinal compounds might be
extracted from the seed, before or after the oil, leaving the oil cake for
biomass or manure.
Yields and Economics
Seed yields 6–8 MT/ha with ca 37% oil. Such yields could produce the equivalent
of 2,100–2,800 liters fuel oil/ha.
The clear oil expressed from the seed has been used for illumination and
lubricating. One ton of nuts yielding 70 kg refined petroleum, 40 kg "gasoil
leger" (light fuel oil), 40 kg regular fuel oil, 34 kg dry tar/pitch/rosin, 270
kg coke-like char, and 200 kg ammoniacal water, natural gas, creosote, etc.
show antileukemic activity, contain a-amyrin, b-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol,
7-keto-b-sitosterol, stigmast-5-ene-3-b, 7-a-diol,
and stigmast-5-ene-3 b, 7 b-diol.
Some Characteristics of Significance
Can grow in wastelands across India.
oil is an excellent source of bio-diesel.
Large plots of waste land can be selected which will also provide much needed
employment to the rural poor of India
potential GHG emission saving of 33-42% compared to fossil-based diesel
India is today very keen on reducing the use and its dependence on coal
and petroleum to meet the challenges of the energy demand and encouraging the
Jatropha cultivation as a crucial component of the energy policy of the country.
One of the major concerns and goals of the National Policy on Biofuels is to
ensure that a minimum level of biofuels become readily available in the market to meet the demand at any given
time. An indicative target of 20per cent
blending of biofuels, both for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol, by 2017 is proposed.
Blending levels prescribed in regard to bio-diesel are intended to be
recommendatory in the near term. The blending level of bio- ethanol has already
been made mandatory, effective from October, 2008, and will continue to be
mandatory leading up to the indicative target.
Promoting the use and making the public aware about the use and the growth of the biofuels shall surely make the
provisions for the lowering of environmental loads. This will be indeed
dynamically very efficient. The effects of the use of biofuels shall also surely
include the reduction in the emission of the harmful green house gases and
thereby helpful in reducing the global warming.
Reducing and Substituting the
dependence on fossil fuels in transport sectors:
The planning and the implementation of the low carbon development in the transport sector
in the developing countries and the world at large is a paramount task for every
government in every country today. In the globalised world transportation and
the transport sectors play a pivotal role in the macro as well as micro
economical activities. Transport plays a very important role in the survival of
the nations and the continents. From developmental activities to disaster
management transport plays a big role. And at the same time transport and
transportation activities require and shall require a major share of the energy
produce. Hence developing countries in order to efficiently conduct their
activities must rely on low carbon, cheaper, easily accessible and available
sources of energy which can be used, exploited and generated sustainably. The
Indian roads and the ports today are becoming great global attractants which
attract the investments from outside and inside alike.
The prospect of biofuels as a transport alternative fuel is promising. The transport sector occupies one of the
largest energy consuming sectors in every country of the world. A part of this energy demand, if it is
supplied by the ecofriendly biofuels much of the problem(s) of pollution such as
acid rainfall, harmful tropospheric ozone formation and release of the
global-warming gases shall be reduced.
Challenges of Biofuels in the
Striving to Explore further:
1. Intensive research and development to standardize and increase the
efficiency of the biofuels.
2. Proper transfer and induction of newer technologies regarding the
3. Mainstreaming the importance, acceptance and adoption of the biofuels.
4. Cooperative works must be promoted between the farmers, growers,
institutions both educational and financial.
5. Sustainable production of the high quality biofuel feedstocks through
intense and active local communities.
6. Proper utilization of the end products.
7. Special creation of the grants for undergoing research in the locally
available resources for the production of the biofuels.
8. Strict maintenance of the achievable high standard and quality.This
must be strictly enforced, implemented and audited timely.
9. Participation from all the states and
10. Awareness and capacity building must be given good share of priority
as until and unless people are not aware of the importance and significance the
sustainability of the process, project and propagation will not last long.
The welfare of humans or the societies of
humans require power or energy. And there is no bias in terms of the energy
need. We must move or should be intelligent enough to have basic energy as a
fundamental right of all of us. To have a clean environment, better sanitation,
better health, well secured and a well informed society the primary requirement
has always been the easily assessable, affordable and equitably distributed
energy. We need a very practical solution and a very practical energy source.
Much of the present renewable sources of energy too are in the spheres of
consultation and consultants only.
Shrinking crude oil reserves, rising demand and
the corresponding rise in prices of petroleum, as well as the concerns about
global climate change and energy security, bioenergy is becoming increasingly
relevant as a possible and potential alternative or substitutes to fossil fuels.
Lets aim for an energy source which has at
least one of the objectives –everybody’s interest is taken care of,
entrepreneurial, easy to use and conserve or save, locally available, adaptive
technology, reap the dividends by the locals in a local atmosphere along with
the probability of selling the extra and unused to a public grid or to an energy
The author is Assistant Professor in Zoology, Ramjas College, Delhi University,