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 announced the launch of the Global Biofuel Alliance and urged G-20 nations to join the initiative with a plea to take ethanol blending with petrol globally to 20%.
About Global Biofuels Alliance
- 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, while Canada and Singapore are observer countries.
- The Alliance, is focused on securing the supply of biofuels, ensuring these biofuels remain affordable and are produced sustainably.
- Founding members of the Alliance will continue outreach to other countries committed to these shared values with the goal of adding more countries to this effort.
- The Global Biofuels Alliance, which the world’s third biggest oil consumer wants to push during its G-20 presidency, mirrors the International Solar Alliance (ISA) piloted by New Delhi and Paris in 2015 to bring clean and affordable solar energy within the reach of all.
- India’s proposal for a global alliance on biofuels among G-20 members would help accelerate sustainable biofuels deployment in support of the global energy transition.
- The Global Biofuels Alliance is aimed at facilitating cooperation and intensifying the use of sustainable biofuels across sectors, including transportation. Its focus is primarily on strengthening markets, facilitating global biofuel trade, developing concrete policy lesson-sharing and providing technical support for national biofuel programmes worldwide.
- Such an initiative is also aimed at helping India’s transition to alternative fuels and cutting its import bill, as the country seeks to achieve its net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2070.
- Supported by G20 countries and organisations like IAE, ICAO, WEF, World LPG Foundation.
- The Alliance shall work in collaboration with and complement the relevant existing regional and international agencies as well as initiatives in the bioenergy, bioeconomy, and energy transition fields more broadly, including the Clean Energy Ministerial Biofuture Platform, the Mission Innovation Bioenergy initiatives, and the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP).
Which are the other countries which are part of this project?
- Nineteen countries and 12 international organisations have already agreed to join the GBA.
- Seven G20 member countries support GBA: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, South Africa, and the USA have joined . Four G20 invitee countries, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, and UAE support it.
- Eight non-G20 countries are also supporting GBA. Iceland, Kenya, Guyana, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Finland are the countries. And 12 international organisations such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Economic Forum, World LPG Organization, UN Energy for All, UNIDO, Biofutures Platform, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum, International Renewable Energy Agency, World Biogas Association are supporting.
- GBA Members constitute major producers and consumers of biofuels, such as the USA (52 per cent), Brazil (30 per cent) and India (3 per cent), contributing about 85 per cent share in production and about 81 per cent in consumption of ethanol.
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.
- The former is derived from crops grown specifically to produce biofuels such as sugarcane, corn, or soybean, and the latter is from agricultural waste, used cooking oil and processed animal residues like fats.
- The former is colloquially referred to as 1G ethanol, or first-generation biofuel, and the latter as 2G, that is second-generation. This distinction has now come into sharp focus as climate change accelerates, with fears of threat to food security and increased loss of forests and biodiversity due to greater land required for farming.
- Estimates suggest that well over half of all vegetated land is under cultivation today, and that agriculture is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters.
- The GBA has emphasised that its focus would be to develop 2G ethanol.
Do biofuels aid 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.
- It would do so by allowing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions even while stretching the life of internal combustion engines, giving time for automakers to develop robust alternatives, while increasing farmers’ incomes and providing jobs.
What happens next?
- The three founding members of the GBA produce 85% of global biofuels and consume about 81% of it.
- Similarly, 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.
Significance of the alliance
- According to G20 Biofuels Study report, biofuels account for 0 to 7 per cent of G20 country’s energy mix. GBA will help raise awareness of biofuels’ vital role in greenhouse gas reduction.
- It drives global sustainable biofuel development, aids national programs, shares policy insights, builds capacity, reshapes perception, and boosts global trade.
- It will help promote best practices for efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable feedstock use.
- Ensure a stable supply of eco-fuels and create a virtual marketplace connecting industries, countries, and tech providers, enhancing demand-supply mapping.
Biofuel and India
- Biofuel is a renewable source of energy which is derived from biomass.
- India, which imports over 85 per cent of its crude oil needs, is gradually building capacity to produce fuel from such items as crop stubble, plant waste, and municipal solid waste.
- While India is on schedule to double the mixing of ethanol extracted from sugarcane and agriculture waste to 20 per cent with petrol by 2025, it is also setting up dozens of compressed biogas plants.
Will this alliance help India in achieving its target?
- This will help India become the voice of the global south by getting countries which are still to start their biofuels programme.
- For India, it will provide additional opportunities to its industries by exporting technology and equipment.
- It will help accelerate India’s existing biofuel programmes such as – PM-JIVANYojna, SATAT, and GOBARdhan scheme — thereby contributing to increased farmers’ income, creating jobs and overall development of the Indian eco-system.
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