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`Involve panchayats in biofuel programme'

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Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Panchayati Raj, and Dr R.K. Pachauri, Director-General, TERI, at a conference in the Capital on Monday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , Oct. 17

THE Petroleum Minister, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, on Monday said that the successful implementation of biofuel programme depends on four Ps— public-private-panchayat-partnership.

Inaugurating an international conference on `Bio fuels 2012 - Vision to Reality,' the Minister said the success of the plan to dope diesel with non-edible oil extracted from plants such as Jatropha so as to cut imports, depends on the involvement of local bodies in the programme.

``Unless P3 - public-private partnership - is converted into P4 - public-private-panchayat partnership, I see no hope for the biofuel programme," the Minister said.

While the country's prospects for oil and gas are limited, it has unlimited potential to produce bio-diesel, he said. Five per cent non-edible oil from plants like jatropha and pongamia would be mixed with diesel during trial runs and the percentage increased to 20 in phases, the Minister said adding that automobile engines do not require any modification for using diesel doped with 20 per cent bio-diesel as fuel.

Mr R.K. Pachauri, Director General, TERI, said 13.4 million-hectares of land in the country could be used for Jatropha plantation. The initial cost of production of bio-diesel would be upwards of Rs 23 a litre and over time, it could be brought down to Rs 15-18 a litre, he said.

In a presentation on biofuels, TERI said it could act as catalyst for growth in rural areas. Some of the options for biofuel are straight vegetable oil and bio diesel. Non-edible oil seeds and ethanol are also being considered.

Agreeing that in 2005-04, sugar production suffered due to drought conditions in several parts of the country, Mr Smeer Maithel, Director Energy-Environment Technology Division, TERI, said that ethanol supply is expected to improve during 2005-06. He, however, said that there was a need to move from the present single feed stock, sugarcane molasses option towards multi-feed stocks, sweet sorghum and sugar beet for ethanol production.

In 2003, five per cent ethanol blending in petrol was made mandatory in nine States and four Union Territories. In 2004-05 sugarcane production suffered due to drought conditions in several parts of the country and mandatory blending was made subject to availability.

On bio-diesel policy, TERI said though the bio-diesel purchase announcement was made by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, a decision on National Mission of bio-diesel was still awaited. TERI has suggested that integrated (field-to-wheel) demonstration projects for bio-diesel to establish sustainable production models should be set up.

It has also called for a comprehensive policy for biofuels, which outlines the targets, duties and taxes, role of various Central ministries, State Governments and coordinating mechanism.

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