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September 19, 2023 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm


The story so far:

On September 10, on the sidelines of the annual G-20 summit in New Delhi, an India-led grouping came together to give impetus to the production and use of biofuels, an alternative to fossil fuels like petroleum and diesel.

The grouping, called the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) would attempt to bring countries together to co-develop, accelerate technological advances in production processes, and advocate for the use of biofuels particularly in the transport sector.

The three founding members, India, the U.S. and Brazil, were joined by Argentina, Canada, Italy and South Africa, who are also G-20 member countries.

What are biofuels?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines biofuels as “liquid fuels derived from biomass and used as an alternative to fossil fuel based liquid transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels.”

Are biofuels an alternative to fossil fuels?

Experts in the field make a distinction between biofuels and sustainable biofuels (crops that are used for deriving biofuels without disturbing food security).

First Generation Biofuels or 1G Ethanol: These are derived from crops grown specifically to produce biofuels such as sugarcane, corn, or soybean.

Second Generation Biofuels or 2 G Ethanol: and the latter sustainable biofuels are from agricultural waste, used cooking oil and processed animal residues like fats.

Third Generation Biofuels: These are produced from micro-organisms like algae.

Fourth Generation Biofuels: Fourth-generation biofuels are the amalgamation of genomically prepared microorganisms and genetically engineered feedstock.

Why is there a renewed focus on biofuels?

With severe disruptions to global crude oil supplies following the Ukraine war, several countries have been scrambling to find alternatives to the import dependence on petrol and diesel.

+India, for instance, imports 87% of its crude oil, and it is the main reserve currency expenditure for the country.

With transport accounting for about one-quarter of global carbon emissions, there have been renewed attempts to accelerate the decarbonising of this sector, with several countries announcing battery production and electric vehicle (EV) policies and legacy automakers entering the now thriving EV sector.

But some modes of transport like aviation, shipping and long-haul trucking will find it harder to reduce carbon emissions than say, self-driven cars or motorbikes. It is here that some experts feel that 2G ethanol could be a valuable substitute.

Do biofuels aid energy transition?

What is Energy Transition: Energy transition refers to the global energy sector’s shift from fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption — including oil, natural gas and coal — to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, as well as lithium-ion batteries.

The increasing penetration of renewable energy into the energy supply mix, the onset of electrification and improvements in energy storage are all key drivers of the energy transition.


Most biofuels today are blended with petrol or diesel at varying degrees. For instance, India blends about 10% of biofuels and has plans to double this in the coming years.

While some experts feel that accelerating EV adoption and developing alternatives like green hydrogen must be the focus of the ongoing energy transition, others argue that 2G ethanol would soften the impending disruption.

What happens next?

The three founding members of the GBA produce 85% of global biofuels and consume about 81% of it.

India had announced the setting up of 12 new refineries as early as 2018 with the aim to meet 20% ethanol blending by 2025. This becomes even more significant following India’s announcement to become net zero (removing as much carbon from the atmosphere as human activity emits) by 2070.

The IEA predicts that about two-thirds of the global biofuel demand will come from three emerging economies – India, Brazil and Indonesia, and that they have “ample domestic feedstocks, additional production capacity, relatively low production costs and a package of policies they can leverage to increase demand.”

However, it remains to be seen if this would indeed hasten decarbonizing of the energy sector.

Indian Initiatives in the field of Biofuels

  1. India’s Biofuel Policy: The policy’s objective is to reduce the import of petroleum products by fostering domestic biofuel production. It advanced the deadline to reach the blending target of 20% bioethanol in petrol, from 2030 to 2025-26 . Make additional feedstocks eligible for the production of biofuels.
  2. Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme: It seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry.
  3. Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana, 2019: To create an ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and to boost Research and Development in 2G Ethanol sector.
  4. GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) DHAN scheme: It focuses on managing and converting cattle dung and solid waste in farms to useful compost, biogas and bio-CNG.
  5. Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO): It was launched by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and aims for arrangements for the collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.

Prelims Questions

  1. Participants
  2. Generations of Biofuels
  3. Issues related to Energy Transition
  4. Carbon Emission Norms

Mains Questions

  1. What is Energy Transition? Give an overview of all the programs concerning transition from fossil fuel to biofuel transition in India? (150 Words) 10 Marks
  2. Describe the salient features of the National Biofuel Policy of India, 2018? (150 Words) 10 Marks


September 19, 2023
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
Event Category: