Assessment of the current biofuel industry in India and Canada
The biofuel industry is developing rapidly on a global scale, and both the Canadian and Indian government are currently increasing production of the renewable energy option. The industry has the potential to improve the rural economy, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meet the country’s energy security requirements. The locally produced bioenergy can reduce dependence on foreign oil and provide the requirements for agricultural, industrial and household uses in urban and rural areas of the country. At the same time however, it has contributed to reduced food availability and an increase in food prices. The report looks at the current situation in both countries by investigating the available technology for conversion and its efficiency, and the biofuel resources available. It also investigates whether biofuels are a sustainable energy option by looking at their future potential in terms of the amount of energy that needs to be produced in future years and the area of land required to grow the biofuel crops. Finally, the ii environmental and socio-economic impacts of the biofuel industry are analysed. The two countries want to blend 5% ethanol with gasoline for vehicle use by 2010. Canada wants to achieve 2% of diesel requirements by increasing biodiesel development; India is aiming for 20% by 2012. Ethanol is predominately obtained from corn in Canada and both soybean and canola oil are being used as feedstock for biodiesel. In India, sugarcane molasses is utilized for ethanol and the government is also looking into using Jatropha Curcas seeds for biodiesel production on wastelands. Both countries have the potential of meeting future blending requirements but will require an increase in crop land area. The use of cellulosic ethanol derived from switchgrass and agricultural residues is being investigated but is not yet commercially available. The biofuel industry creates both positive and negative environmental and socio-economic impacts. Biofuels can mitigate carbon from the atmosphere through crop sequestration. However, deforestation and land use change in response to increased agricultural land requirements may increase GHG emissions over the long term. Furthermore, large quantities of water, land and chemicals are required to cultivate biofuel crops. In terms of social sustainability, the biofuel industry has the potential of creating employment opportunities in rural areas and can raise farm income. However, there are also socio-economic impacts through the competition of land required for food crops. The increase in grain prices is posing a threat to food security in many developing nations. The environmental and social sustainability issues need to be considered by policy makers when implementing the production of biofuels on a local and global scale.