The actions we take in the present not just shape our collective future, but also that of our succeeding generations. The world claims for a green future and the clock is already ticking. Action should be taken now.
Considering the impact that the depletion of natural resources and subsequent environmental damage has had on the world at large, countries across the globe, today, are growing increasingly conscious about their carbon footprint and have expressed their intentions to switch to clean energy.
This global wave of decarbonisation can be furthered by making conscious choices and strategically adopting alternatives to polluting fuels such as coal and petroleum. India’s adoption of electric vehicles is one such step towards fulfilling its green goals; however, its journey is still reliant on coal for electricity. To circumvent this overdependence on coal, it’s imperative to bring in complementary clean fuels such as ethanol to the fore. A great example of this is the recent launch of India’s first ethanol-ready flex fuel hybrid car by a leading Japanese car manufacturer that unites electrification and ethanol.
What makes ethanol a strong complementary green fuel?
The fuel with the smallest carbon footprint even amongst biofuels, sugarcane ethanol is a clean and affordable alternative to conventional fuels. Adding ethanol to the energy basket not only promises to offer greater diversity in energy sources, but also paves way for reducing carbon emissions as it is known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%. Ethanol blending is also known to significantly reduce emissions of particulate pollutants and noxious gases. The government of India’s vision of a ‘New India’ in 2022 also envisages a future with clean energy supported by decreased dependency on fossil fuels, and to achieve this, a flexible approach of working with multiple solutions such as a combination of electric and flex-fuel vehicles will be beneficial in achieving carbon reduction goals linked to mobility. Additionally, with an ever-increasing population, the number of automobiles in the country is also projected to have a five-fold increase in the next 20 years, potentially leading to increased levels of pollution.
An inspiration for India, in this domain, is the classic example of São Paulo’s ethanol programme that helped the largest Brazilian city witness a 50% reduction in particulate emissions despite nearly doubling its car fleet. Additionally, ethanol has reduced Brazil’s dependence on imported oil and substituted almost 50% of petrol with ethanol, saving around $180 billion worth of fossil fuel imports in the last 20 years. India’s anticipated policy for flex-fuel engines and ethanol is also likely to further its sustainability goals. To address this, the government of India is actively focusing on accelerating the adoption of blended fuel technology and aims to achieve its production goal of 1,000 crore litres of E20 fuel five years beforehand by April 2023.
In doing so, India paces ahead on its path to transitioning to a renewable energy-based green economy. Its automobile sector is at an essential juncture where every step taken towards achieving decarbonisation will go a long way in ensuring a cleaner and greener planet. Ethanol offers flexibility in a way that this change can take place by utilising current resources while also building more for the future.
The author is executive director, UNICA (Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association)