Biofuels: opportunities and challenges in India

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Energy plays a vital role in the economic growth of any country. Current energy supplies in the world are unsustainable from environmental, economic, and societal standpoints. All over the world, governments have initiated the use of alternative sources of energy for ensuring energy security, generating employment, and mitigating CO2 emissions. Biofuels have emerged as an ideal choice to meet these requirements. Huge investments in research and subsidies for production are the rule in most of the developed countries. India started its biofuel initiative in 2003. This initiative differs from other nations' in its choice of raw material for biofuel production—molasses for bioethanol and nonedible oil for biodiesel. Cyclicality of sugar, molasses, and ethanol production resulted in a fuel ethanol program which suffered from inconsistent production and supply. The restrictive policies, availability of molasses, and cost hampered the fuel ethanol program. Inconsistent policies, availability of land, choice of nonnative crops, yield, and market price have been major impediments for biodiesel implementation. However, a coherent, consistent, and committed policy with long-term vision can sustain India's biofuel effort. This will provide energy security, economic growth, and prosperity and ensure a higher quality of life for India.

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