The arguments made by Mr. R. Vishwanathan for the use of ethanol blending in his article “A Sugar Rush that could fuel the economy” are biased and does not take into consideration the ill effects of such a move.
Firstly, he pointed out that use of ethanol will decrease the carbon emissions and improve quality of air. Though he is right; the use of ethanol will increase the emissions from other sources. As pointed out in a recent report of FAO (published in The Hindu, Wasted Food For Thought), changing land production pattern is also a factor of climate change and GHG emissions. Further increased production of Sugarcane will put huge pressure on land and water resource. In a country like India, which is already suffering from increasing quantum of wasteland, it will not be prudent to introduce such a scheme without measures for restoration of land.
Secondly, it may threaten the food security of the country in a long run. More and more farmers will tend to produce sugarcane in search of better returns and for maximizing their profit. That will lead to decrease in the production of food crops like Wheat and rice which will escalate the prices of these subsistence crops. On the other hand, lower production of sugarcane will lead to escalation of prices of ‘mandatory’ ethanol blended fuel which will be out of bound from the reach of middle class.
Thirdly, ethanol is an excellent solvent (if it crosses 10% of the amount) and will have adverse affect on the motor engines, their rubber and plastic parts. Some sources point out the dissolution of resins that create a black sludge that coats and travels through the engine, causing engine stalling and complication in its working. Further high compression ratio will decrease mileage due to low energy content.
What is required, is not the introduction of new methods for acceleration of growth of private vehicles but a way to sensitize the public about the use of public vehicles. For making India least depended about its energy security on foreign players, it must introduce multi-pronged strategy ranging from electrification of diesel based trains, creation and promotion of end to end public transport infrastructure with fast means of commutation. As said, ‘ A country’s progress and self sufficiency is not marked by the number of people who owns car but is testified when both rich and poor share the same space on a public vehicle for his/her commutation purpose’.