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G20 summit: PM Modi launches Global Biofuels Alliance along with US, Brazil and 6 other nations. Here is what you need to know

'Global Biofuels Alliance' is meant to accelerate the worldwide use of biofuels by facilitating technology advancements and technology transfer.

In a major advancement towards clean energy, Prime Minister of Bharat Narendra Modi along with 8 heads of state launched the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) on Saturday (September 9).

Notably, the GBA is an initiative by Bharat as the G20 Chair. Along with Bharat, Brazil and the United States are the other founding members of the alliance. Remarkably, the three founding members of GBA – Bharat, the US, and Brazil have a combined contribution of about 85% in global production and 81% in consumption of ethanol (a widely used biofuel).

Apart from founding members – Bharat, Brazil, and the US, other G20 members supporting the initiative are Argentina, Canada, Italy, and South Africa. Whereas, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, and the UAE are the G20 invitee countries who have extended their support to the newly formed alliance.

After the launch event, taking to X, PM Modi hailed the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance as a watershed moment one which takes the world towards sustainability and clean energy. 

US President Joe Biden, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and other leaders also hailed the partnership.

The aim of the ‘Global Biofuels Alliance’ is to accelerate the global use of biofuels by facilitating technology advancements, technology transfer, and intensifying the utilisation of sustainable biofuels.

GBA’s goal is to be a driving force that encourages collaboration worldwide to advance and make biofuels more widely adopted including in the transport sector.

The support for the alliance is growing rapidly

Significantly, the alliance has garnered great strength right from its launch as around 19 countries and 12 international organisations have already agreed to join the alliance. These include both G20 members and non-member countries. 

The non-G20 countries reportedly interested in joining the alliance are Iceland, Kenya, Guyana, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Finland.

Additionally, the interested international and multilateral organisations include the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Economic Forum, World LPG Organisation, UN-Energy for All, UNIDO, Biofutures Platform, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Energy Agency (IEA), International Energy Forum, International Renewable Energy Agency, and World Biogas Association.

However, China and oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia are not a part of this alliance. Apart from the environmental aspect, the alliance would help member countries in economic terms as well. Evidently, according to the Indian Biogas Association (IBA), the Biofuels Alliance can generate opportunities worth USD 500 billion in the next three years for G20 countries. 

As per official data, the global ethanol market (widely used biofuel) was valued at $99.06 billion in 2022. Now, it is predicted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.1% by 2032 and surpass $162.12 billion by 2032. In the context of Bharat, the CAGR has been approximately 22 percent over the last six years.

Biofuels as a Cleaner Renewable Energy Source

Biofuels are liquid fuels that are produced from renewable biological sources, including plants and algae. Simply put, any fuel that is produced from agricultural produce or organic waste is a biofuel. 

Unlike other sources of renewable energy (Solar or wind), Biofuels can be helpful in replacing liquid fuels such as jet fuel, gasoline, and diesel fuel which are critical to our transportation needs. That is why, in comparison to fossil fuels, biofuels have the added advantage that they contribute little to no emissions. 

Currently, governments are encouraging companies to blend more biofuels (mostly ethanol) in fossil fuels to bring down emissions, without impacting efficiency. 

In the context of Bharat, the government is working on an E20 blending programme – that is 20% Ethanol is blended in petrol to bring down emissions and the oil import bill.   

Remarkably, it is expected that not just the composition of biofuels can be increased in blended fuels, it could potentially replace fossil fuels as it has the potential to deliver cleaner energy than some other sources.

With improvement in Biofuels, the energy is getting cleaner

Now, Biofuels are classified by their source, and grouped into different ‘generations.’ First-generation biofuels come from food crops such as corn and sugar cane, second-generation biofuels originate from inedible vegetation and agricultural waste, and third-generation biofuels are derived from algae. 

The most common biofuels include ethanol, biodiesel, and biogas. They can be produced from any of these sources and are hence categorised according to their origin. For instance, ethanol made from corn grown on farms is considered first-generation ethanol.

At present, researchers in the field of bioenergy are working on the development of next-generation advanced biofuels and bioproducts. 

They are developing sources of biofuel raw material (called feedstocks) that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. For example, switchgrass and poplar are fast-growing, non-food species that may be ideal feedstocks. 

Additionally, they are working to improve genes in plants to make their breakdown process into biofuels and other bioproducts easier. 

For this, they have been working on to design enzymes and microbes (such as yeast) tailored to break down plant material into sugars and the substances that give plants their structure. 

The strength of the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) stems from the fact that biofuels are considered a clean source of renewable energy as compared to other sources and are only making advancements in this direction. 

Apart from helping the environment by reducing harmful emissions, biofuels can boost the economy as they greatly help the local farming community. 

Apparently, ethanol plays a big role in sustainable energy creation which is a byproduct of sugar cane. With this new Global Biofuels Alliance, farmers will be encouraged to produce more sugar cane and it will inevitably boost agriculture in the participating countries including India. 

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