Biomass can be converted directly into liquid fuels, called “biofuels,” to help meet transportation fuel needs, where as other renewable energies are not.
Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass contains stored chemical energy from the sun that is produced by plants through photosynthesis. Biomass can be burned directly for heat or converted to liquid and gaseous fuels through various processes.
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i. In India, biofuel is synonymous with first generation (1G) ethanol, which is primarily sourced from food crops.
ii. The policy target in India of achieving 20% ethanol blending with petrol (E20) by 2025-26 is expected to be met almost entirely by 1G ethanol made from sugar cane and food grains.
iii. Second generation (2G) ethanol, which is made from crop wastes and residues, is unlikely to contribute much to achieving this target due to several challenges related to feedstock supply chain and scaling up.
iv. The groundwater depletion implications of growing sugar cane are well known, but the food security implications of groundwater depletion and of using food grains for ethanol production are harder to imagine because India is currently a surplus food producer.
v. Reasons; why diverting the surplus produce towards energy or specifically growing a crop for energy may not be a sustainable strategy.
vi. First, India’s crop yields have already stagnated, and global warming is expected to reduce yields, which means that the same area under cultivation (arable land) will produce less with time but will need to suffice for a growing population.
vii. So, our strategy to meet blending targets cannot depend on surplus crop production.
viii. Second, a recent study led by the University of Michigan projected that the rates of groundwater depletion could triple during 2040 , compared with the current rate. This is again attributable to temperature rise and the resultant increase in crop water requirement.
ix. Third, the agriculture sector is one of the hardest to abate in terms of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
x. So, increasing GHG emissions from this sector for motor fuel production in order to decrease GHG emissions from the transport sector is an unnecessary balancing loop that would achieve little net benefit.
xi. ‘Sustainable’ biofuels are produced from crop residues and other wastes, with low water and GHG footprint.
xii. The Global Biofuels Alliance that was formed at the G20 Summit in New Delhi last week is expected to strengthen the development of sustainable biofuels, in addition to promoting ethanol uptake.
xiii. The Energy Transitions Commission, in its report on ‘Bio-resources within a NetZero Emissions Economy’, recommended that biomass should be prioritized for use in sectors where there are limited low carbon alternatives.
Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) that’s produced and the amount that’s removed from the atmosphere. It can be achieved through a combination of emission reduction and emission removal.
xiv.According to the International Energy Agency, to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 globally, sustainable biofuel production needs to triple by 2030 to fuel modes that have few other mitigation options.
xv.Although 1G ethanol is unlikely to fit the bill, 2G ethanol could be counted as a sustainable fuel, especially if the production is decentralised, i.e., crop residues do not have to be transported large distances to a central manufacturing plant.
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Source: The Hindu