Enthusiastic intentions alone can’t make effective policy if there’s no recognition of the hard reality—we refer to the mandate for ethanol blending with petrol. Although the long-standing programme for 5% blending across some states hardly took off, the Union government has made this mandatory for now and 10% blending by next October for the entire country.
While we are all for reducing dependence on costly crude oil imports, and for making our automobiles run on less polluting fuel, the question is whether the government has given enough thought to concerns such as assured supply of ethanol.
True, a sugar industry hit by a glut today is keen to produce more ethanol, and is waiting for demand security through such mandates. But sugar cane is a water-guzzling crop and the industry’s output can fluctuate. Norms relying on sugar cane alone may not work for India, unlike in Brazil. Any well-defined plans for cost-effective alternatives?