Saturday, September 01, 2018

Jatropha needs a policy push

New Delhi: SpiceJet’s biofuel-powered flight between Dehradun and Delhi on Monday is no small milestone. One of the two engines of SpiceJet’s aircraft ran on a 25-75 blend of Jatropha-based bio-fuel and regular, hydrocarbon-based aviation turbine fuel (ATF). Beyond just demonstrating technological competence to fly using Jatropha-derived bio-fuel, the flight also rekindles hope of a sharper policy focus on bio-fuels, especially the Jatropha-derived one. As per a report in The Hindu, the Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, said that the Cabinet will soon be examining a policy on bio-fuel for aircraft. Given India is set to become one of the largest civil aviation markets, whetting the industry’s appetite for bio-fuels—the international standard for blending allows for a 50-50 mix of biofuels and ATF—not only means cheaper access to flying (bio-jet fuel, as per SpiceJet, could cut fuel costs by 15-20%), but will also be a significant step towards reducing the industry’s carbon impact and help ease India’s import dependence for fossil fuels.
So far, India’s bio-fuel efforts—more pronouncedly, for biodiesel—have lacked critical propulsion. While the Planning Commission, in 2003, had proposed a two-phased National Biodiesel Mission that was predominantly focussed on Jatropha with other non-edible oils, including from Pongamia (karanja) also thrown into the mix, a decade and a half later the goals of even the first phase haven’t been met. Under the first phase, 2.19 million hectares of land in the country were to be brought under Jatropha plantation to meet a projected demand of 5% blending with high-speed diesel consumed in the country by 2006-07. By 2011-2012, under the second phase beginning 2007, area under Jatropha was to be scaled up to 11.2 million hectares to meet a 20% blending rate. The plan panel’s report estimated 13.4 million hectares could be potentially made available for the crop.
01/09/18 Financial Express