Sree Iyer: A way to reduce pollution, stop crop-burning & become self-reliant in green energy

Why is Nitin Gadkari asking everyone to scrap their current vehicles? Why are the interstate highways being built at such a frenetic pace? Is the Modi Govt. trying to become self-reliant on Green Energy and also become self-reliant? A peek under the hood of some of the proposals Nitin Gadkari outlined in his conversation with Republic TV.

How crop burning can be prevented – use Rice straw to create Ethanol

Rice straw can potentially produce 205 billion liter bioethanol per year in the world, which is about 5% of the total consumption. It is the largest amount from a single biomass feedstock. Rice straw predominantly contains cellulose 32–47%, hemicelluloses 19–27%, lignin 5–24%, and ashes 18.8%. Every kilo of rice produces 1 to 1.5 kilos of Rice straw.[1] [2]

The efficiency of this and viability is still a work in progress – however, if a country like India jumps in with both its feet to tackle the pollution from crop burning, this could be another creator of ethanol.

Ethanol Benefits and Considerations

Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced transportation fuel. Whether used in low-level blends, such as E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), E15 (10.5% to 15% ethanol), or E85 (flex fuel) — a gasoline-ethanol blend containing 51% to 83% ethanol, depending on geography and season — ethanol helps reduce emissions. Like any alternative fuel, the use of ethanol involves several considerations.

E85 that contains 83% ethanol content has about 27% less energy per gallon than gasoline (the impact to fuel economy lessens as ethanol content decreases). Engines in gasoline vehicles, including flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs), are optimized for gasoline. If they were optimized to run on higher ethanol blends, fuel economy would likely increase as a result of increased engine efficiency.[3]

Ethanol is a net-job creator.

Sugarcane to Ethanol conversion efficiencies

About 50 kg of Sugarcane is required to produce 3.5 liters of Ethanol, It creates a waste liquid of about 40 liters and a waste solid of about 15 kg., which can be used to heat/ steam/ electricity for the plant. Liquid waste also called Vinesses has to be treated before disposal. This is one concern. However, Ethanol has a much better green footprint than fossil fuels.[4]

Hydrogen fuel-based cars

These are just like Flex-fuel except there will be a separate pump for these. Just like we have petrol pump and a diesel pump, you will have a Hydrogen fuel pump. A picture of how it looks like is shown in the references. Look for them in the Show More section[5].

Electric Hybrids

Today in the US we have these. There is a rechargeable electric battery in the car and it is being constantly recharged when the car is running on petrol. The Rotation of the wheel can be used to create electricity, which then charges the battery. A computer in the car constantly monitors the charging process and when it reaches a certain level, switches the Engine drive to Electric. You can see this on your dashboard and now you are completely cruising on Electricity – till it drops below a threshold and then the Engine switches to Petrol.

Pure Electric

There are cars/ two-wheelers that can be charged at your home. On the road, say long-distance trip, supercharging stations can be installed at periodic intervals.

In order to take advantage of all this, you need good roads – and that is what this Modi government is doing.


[1] Bioethanol production from rice straw residuesMay 31, 2013, NCBI

[2] Bioethanol Production from Rice Straw – YouTubeDec 13, 2016, YouTube

[3] Alternate Fuels Data Center – U.S. Dept of Energy

[4] Sugarcane Ethanol Production – University of Hawaii

[5] Hydrogen Fuel Station – Google Maps

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