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Efforts on to introduce ethanol in agriculture, construction equipment: Gadkari

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Pune: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday stressed on the need to switch to alternative fuel like ethanol and said efforts are on to introduce ethanol in construction and agriculture equipment.

The Union road transport and highways minister said the country imports petroleum products worth Rs 10 lakh crore to meet the requirements in the energy and power sector, and in the next five years, the demand may go up to Rs 25 lakh crore, which will affect the economy.

Gadkari was speaking at the state-level Sugar Conference 2022 organised by Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Pune.

“Alternative fuel is the future. After electric scooters, cars and buses, soon we will have electric tractors and trucks. I am going to launch these soon,” Gadkari said.

Diesel-based agriculture equipment should be made petrol based and flex engines can be converted to run on ethanol, he said, adding that efforts are on to introduce ethanol in construction equipment as well.

Highlighting the need to shift from sugar production to ethanol, the minister said, “The rise in sugar demand across the globe is temporary. When the price of crude oil goes up to $140 per barrel, Brazil produces ethanol from sugarcane, increasing the demand for sugar from India. When the price of crude oil dips to $70 to $80 per barrel, Brazil starts producing sugar.”

When crude oil becomes cheaper, sugar prices will also come down drastically, he said.

Gadkari also asked Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to set up ethanol pumps in Pune, to help farmers sell the fuel directly.

“We have decided to add 20 per cent ethanol in petrol in our country. Accordingly, we will need 1,000 crore litres of ethanol. Our sugar factories don’t have the capacity to produce that amount of fuel. Sugarcane prices will not come down in the near future, but sugar prices may drop. Hence, it is time that the sugar industry switches to ethanol. We have to talk to the petroleum minister and find a way,” the minister said.

Speaking at the event, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the area under sugarcane will increase in the future and hence, planning for the harvest of the crop should be done at the start of the season.

“Harvesting and transportation of sugarcane has become a serious issue. The Sugar Commissionerate and sugar factories should have proper plans in place and implement them strictly,” he said.

Pawar further said the Central government needs to take strategic decisions to increase the storage capacity of ethanol and for that, the policy of oil companies needs to be more favourable in terms of investment, planning for rail transport and purchase of the fuel.

The scarcity of coal in the country has led to a decrease in power generation, which in turn has affected industries and agriculture, he said.

“Sugarcane bagasse can generate 3,600 MW electricity. At present, there are 2,470 MW co-generation projects in Maharashtra. Even if we give 65 to 70 per cent of the power to MSEDCL, the state government can get about 1,660 MW of power. For this, urgent measures need to be taken to set up a bagasse-based project,” Pawar said.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who addressed the conference virtually, said sugar producers in the state were facing several problems.

“We have to follow Brazil for market research. They (Brazil) conduct surveys and accordingly choose a crop in a year. Times are changing and accordingly, we should adopt technology. The future will be ethanol,” Thackeray said.

Sugarcane workers are important, and the Gopinath Ustod Kamgar Mahamandal has been formed to help resolve issues faced by them, he said.

The chief minister further said cultivators must consider adopting micro-irrigation for sugarcane crop, as water is a valuable resource and rainfall is unpredictable.

 

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