Biofuel Policy to be announced by month-end: Muttember

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (UNI) The government today said the national biofuel policy will be announced by the last week of this month or the first week of March, to augment the use of alternate sources of energy.

''The policy has been referred to the Cabinet and the final decision will be announced in the last week of this month or the first week of March,'' Mininster of State for New and Renewable Energy Vilas Muttembar told reporters on the sidelines of the national convention on 'Climate Change and Bio-fuels 2008'.

The new policy proposes minimum support prices (MSPs) for farmers engaged in the production of bio-fuel crops like jatropha, karanjaseeds and oil-bearing materials.

He said the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, has already met twice and has proposed some changes in the draft apart from seeking some clarifications.

The Minister also said his ministry has suggested setting up of a national biofuel development board under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Apart from the plantations, the board will look after their processing and marketing as well.

Mr Muttemwar said the importance of biofuels is rapidly increasing driven by unprecedented upsurge in oil prices as the domestic supply of crude oil meets only 22 per cent of our national demand.

Working towards the promotion of renewable fuels, government has approved mandatory blending of 10 per cent ethanol with petrol from October 2008 in the country, except in the northeastern states.

Highlighting the potential of non-edible oil seeds in the country, the Minister further added, ''more than 400 species of non-edible oil producing seeds are known to India, which needs to be identified and promoted for plantations. I strongly feel that all available feed-stocks should be used for production of biodiesel.'' Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister for Rural Development Raghuvansh Prasad said biofuels are the future energy of the country, adding that it should be promoted without any further delay.

''Three crore hectares of cultivable wasteland is available, which can be effectively used for the cultivation of Jatropha and similar crops to produce biofuel, which can successfully substitute the fossil fuels,'' he said.

Mr Prasad also stated that Rs 1,500 crore has been assigned for biofuel mission.

The rural development ministry, meanwhile, had demanded a gross budgetary support of Rs 1,340 crore to support jatropha cultivation in 400,000 hectare of wasteland over a period of five years.

Mr Prasad said in the last two years, his ministry has dispersed Rs 50 crore across the states to help farmers grow the jatropha plants.

As a result of this, about 18 crore jatropha plants have been planted, he added.

UNI SBA SR ND1455

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