Monday, April 7, 2008

Indian Study indicates many vehicles are not ready for 10% Ethanol Blend

The mandatory 10 per cent ethanol blending in petrol may not happen for the existing 101 million vehicles on the Indian roads without introducing technical changes in them.

The central government plans to make 10 per cent blending compulsory from October from the current 5 per cent.

“We can introduce 10 per cent blending in new vehicles from October, after making the necessary changes in them. However, we are not ready to introduce 10 per cent ethanol blending in the existing 101 million vehicles from October since there is no domestic study on the impact of 10 per cent blending,” said an automobile industry official.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is conducting a study with the oil marketing companies to study the impact on existing vehicles.

These vehicles are not capable of running on 10 per cent ethanol-blended petrol as ethanol releases more heat and can corrode vehicle engines, experts say.

Automobile industry officials also say that 10 per cent blending will lead to a 3 per cent drop in a vehicle’s mileage since ethanol has a lower calorific value than petrol. “However, being an energy deficient country, this should not deter us from blending,” the official added.

In a move that could have implication for India, Germany, which had plans similar to India’s, has decided to scrap the 10 per cent blending programme “as the cost of damages to existing vehicles” would be very high, news agency Bloomberg reported recently.

Biofuel programmes around the world are at the centre of a food-versus-fuel debate. Ecologists argue that producing ethanol from sugarcane and corn, which is being done in the US, is responsible for rise in food prices as a result of food supply shortage.

According to a recent Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)-European Bank for Reconstruction and Development report, the reliance of the expanding biofuels market on commodities such as sugar, maize, oilseeds and palm oil is a major reason for the global price rise in foodgrain.

Ecologists also argue that while biofuels reduce emissions, production of ethanol is resulting in large-scale deforestation across the world.

Officials in the petroleum ministry contest such criticism by saying that ethanol used for blending with petrol in the country will be indigenously procured.

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