India approves biofuel policy

By Erin Voegele | December 09, 2009
Report posted Dec. 30, 2009, at 10:36 p.m. CST

The government of India recently announced that its Union Cabinet has approved a national biofuels policy. This includes the establishment of a national biofuel coordination committee and a biofuel steering committee. According to information released by the Indian government, the biofuel policy will seek to facilitate, optimize, develop and utilize indigenous biomass feedstocks for the production of biofuels.

India's approach to biofuels development is based solely on non-food-based feedstocks that can be cultivated on degraded lands not suitable for food production. As part of the policy, India expects 20 percent of its fuel be comprised of biodiesel and ethanol by 2017. Oil marketing companies (OMCs) in 20 states and 4 union territories are already blending 5 percent ethanol with gasoline, with E10 mandatory blending required in the future, according to the government. The policy states that blending levels prescribed in regard to biodiesel are intended to be recommendatory in the near term, while the blending level of ethanol has already been made mandatory and will continue to be mandatory leading up to the 20 percent target.

The policy aims to makes biofuels a mainstream component of the country's energy and transportation sectors, while contributing to the nation's energy security, climate change mitigation, job creation and sustainable development efforts. The goal of the policy will be to ensure that a minimum level of biofuels become readily available in the market to meet demand at any given time.

India's biofuel policy also places a great deal of emphasis on the development of next- generation technologies that utilize non-traditional feedstocks. The policy states that India's focus will be to utilize only waste and degraded lands for biodiesel feedstock cultivation. While molasses is currently the nation's predominant ethanol feedstock, the policy also states that next-generation technology will be based on non-food feedstocks.

As part of the policy, famers will be encouraged to undertake plantations that cultivate biofuels feedstocks. To help level the playing field with fossil fuels, the policy also states that appropriate financial and fiscal measures will be considered to support the development, promotion and utilization of biofuels. These financial incentives could include subsidies and grants. In addition, the government will support research, development and demonstration activities for feedstock production, biofuels processing, and end-use applications, with emphasis placed on second-generation technologies and new feedstocks.