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Nitin Gadkari calls for increase in use of alternative fuels to lower dependence on imported oil

Mumbai: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday called for increased use of alternative fuels to lower dependence on imported oil, which has been on the boil for quite some time impacting the economy.

Oil prices have been on the rise for quite some time now from its lows in the past three years and hit record highs in recent months. While global crude price is averaging under $75 a barrel, this is still lower by almost 45 percent from the peak of over $140 a barrel in 2012-13. But the domestic retail price of the fuel is one of the highest in the world, thanks to the high Central and state taxes, which constitute almost 45 percent of the fuel price for the consumer.

"The rising crude price has put our economy in trouble," Gadkari said without elaborating and called for adopting alternative fuels.

Pointing out that the annual fuel import bill is as high as Rs 8 trillion, he asked, "why can't we use available resources in the country to produce alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol, bagasse, and electricity to run our vehicles?

"As long as petrol and diesel are available, we will use them, but if we have to make our farmers rich, we will have to use agro-waste or farm leftovers to produce ethanol," he told an event at Rambhau Mhalagi Prabodhini near Mumbai.

The country meets almost 82 percent of its fuel needs through imports. Rising crude import and other non-productive inward shipments like bullion have pushed up the current account deficit to 1.9 percent of GDP or $47.8 billion in FY18. And every analyst has projected FY19 CAD at over 2.3 percent due to rising crude prices and falling rupee.

Reiterating his stated aversion towards fossil fuels, the minister said, "I am going after petrol and diesel, because as long as these are available, vehicles will run on them. But why can't have ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel, CNG and also electricity as fuels for transportation?" he asked.

 Nitin Gadkari calls for increase in use of alternative fuels to lower dependence on imported oil

File image of Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari. PTI

He claimed that "at least Rs 2 trillion worth ethanol can be produced within the country with the help of various agro-waste or leftovers."

Explaining how to achieve this, he said in the first phase, ethanol will be produced from molasses. In the second stage, ethanol will be produced from cotton, wheat and rice straws, bagasse, bamboo and municipal waste, he said.

At the third stage, ethanol will be produced from corn and other agro products, he said, adding, "this can go a long way to remove poverty among the farmers."

Defending his decision to allow non-ISI-marked materials to make electric rickshaws, he said the move was only to keep the prices low.

"If I insist on ISI-grade materials for electric vehicles, it would cost around Rs 2 lakh a unit. As per my formula, the vehicle would cost the poor around Rs 80,000. I am sure we will make strong and safe vehicles with such materials soon, and you can see these vehicles on roads over the next six months," Gadkari said.

Spelling out his outlook towards these alternative fuels, he said these will act as "import substitutes, cost-effective, and pollution-free. Millions of people will replace their pull-carts by e-rickshaws and e-carts within the next six months," Gadkari said.

"(The first Prime Minister) Jawaharlal Nehru had once said India is not a nation but a population. He also used to say that we have as many problems as much as we have the population," Gadkari said without alluding to anything in particular.

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Updated Date: Jul 03, 2018 10:10:46 IST