Restriction of ethanol production: Basics Explained

READ: Express View on restriction of ethanol production: Food vs fuel (

The Food Ministry, 4th Dec, instructed all sugar mills and distilleries to refrain from using sugarcane juice/sugar syrup for the production of ethanol; the move aimed to ensure a sufficient supply of sweeteners for domestic consumption and rein in prices. The food ministry said that the supply of ethanol to oil marketing companies from B-heavy molasses will continue — the leftover molasses after the extraction of sugar. The national biofuels program has led to the average ethanol blending in petrol rising from 1.6 to 11.8 percent between 2013-14 and 2022-23.

The Article illustrates that though the move of the government is to rein in inflation and augment domestic availability on the flip side it will adversely affect the mill owners as they had taken loans to augment production capacity. The investor may shy away from investing in the agriculture sector due to this move.

The National Biofuel Policy 2018 envisages an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel by 2030.


India currently imports around 80 percent of its oil requirement. Fossil fuels account for approximately 75 percent of India’s energy demand, while the remaining share is fulfilled by biofuels derived from agricultural by-products. In 2003, the Centre launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme, which aimed to mix ethanol with petrol, reducing the demand and consequently the consumption of fossil fuels- reducing the carbon footprint of transportation fuels.

Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol)

           Ethanol, also called alcohol, ethyl alcohol, and grain alcohol, is a natural byproduct of plant fermentation. Burning ethanol results in lesser carbon dioxide emissions than conventional fuels.

                                                                      (It is a metabolic process in which an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or a sugar, into an alcohol or an acid. For example, yeast performs fermentation to obtain energy by converting sugar into alcohol. Bacteria perform fermentation, converting carbohydrates into lactic acid.)

and also can be produced through the hydration of ethylene      (ethylene found in both natural gas and petroleum;  is also a naturally occurring hormone in plants, in which it inhibits growth and promotes leaf fall, and in fruits, in which it promotes ripening).

Ethanol is a clear, colorless liquid and the principle ingredient in alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, or brandy. Because it can readily dissolve in water and other organic compounds, ethanol also is an ingredient in a range of products, from personal care and beauty products to paints and varnishes to fuel.

Ethanol is a common ingredient in many cosmetics and beauty products. It acts as an astringent to help clean skin, in lotions as a preservative and to help ensure that lotion ingredients do not separate, and in hairsprays to help the spray adhere to the hair.

Because ethanol is effective in killing microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses, it is a common ingredient in many hand sanitizers.

Ethanol mixes easily with water and many organic compounds, and makes an effective solvent for use in paints, lacquers, and varnish, as well as personal care and household cleaning products.

As a food additive, ethanol can help evenly distribute food coloring, as well as enhance the flavor of food extracts.

Also used in oil as in some countries gasoline contains ethanol, typically in a mixture called E10, made up of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, to oxygenate the fuel and reduce air pollution.

                     The competition between food and fuel production has a potential impact on food security and demands a recalibrated grain-based ethanol blending program. The focus should shift towards ramping up second-generation (2G) ethanol production, which involves using food waste and crop residue.


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