Is 'Mission Biodiesel' yet to take off?

Recent amendments to the existing biodiesel purchase policy has brought some cheer but the bioenergy sector is still too far from reaching even half way mark to the targets set for it

Over last one decade, there has been lot of buzz about the biofuels being the next stop for automobile industry. While the major reason was fast depleting non-renewable sources of energy, the environmental concerns too played an important role in pushing research in various government institutes. However, nothing moved forward in its actual production.

Compared to US where biodiesels are mainly derived from Soybean oil and in Europe from the Sunflower oil, India is deficient in edible oils, non-edible oils may be material of choice for producing biodiesel like Jatropha, Karanjia and Rice bran oils, etc. Also the fact is that at the moment in India, biodiesel is in research phase. Therefore, the economic viability, especially in case of smaller segments such as road transport can be known only in longer run.

Recently the union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February gave its approval for amending the Motor Spirit (petrol) and High Speed Diesel (diesel) control order for Regulation of Supply, Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices dated December 19, 2005. In a glaring contradiction of what was set as a target and actual policy, till now, only state-owned oil firms and only those private firms investing Rs 2,000 crore in oil infrastructure were allowed to retail petrol and diesel. And ironically biodiesel, which is to be doped in diesel before being used was put under this rule too without much analysis.

This decision is expected to encourage the production and use of bio-diesel in the country. The amendment will allow private bio-diesel manufacturers, their authorized dealers and joint ventures of oil marketing companies (OMCs) authorised by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) as dealers and give distribution functions to them for the limited purpose of supply of bio-diesel to consumers. Also, the Rs 2,000 crore investment "will also be relaxed and a new clause added to give marketing rights for bio-diesel to the private bio-diesel manufacturers, their authorized dealers and JVs of OMCs authorised by the MoP&NG for direct sales to consumers.

The amendment was made because users faced problems in sourcing biodiesel. With the relaxation, bulk users like Railways can buy biodiesel directly from manufacturers and dope in diesel for running locomotives.


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