INDIA is on the verge of achieving a milestone in the world by switching over to cleaner fuels for motor vehicles from April 1. According to Mr. Sanjiv Singh, Chairman of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the country would be leapfrogging to Euro VI compliant fuels from current Euro IV standards, a feat achieved in just three years and not seen anywhere else in the world. What this means is that, the country will be using less polluting fuels as the oil companies have already started producing petrol and diesel containing just 10 parts per million (PPM) of sulphur which is the major contributor to vehicular pollution all over the world. The earlier reductions of sulphur in fuels has taken several years, in some cases ten years, and required much effort and expenses for bringing about changes.
But the latest jump from EURO IV to EURO VI has been achieved by the Indian oil companies in just three years. That has brought much benefits to the oil companies and automobile manufacturers by skipping two middle phases of development. Thus apart from coal, petroleum products are one of the major sources of air pollution. And as the country progresses further there is bound to be exponential growth in the population of vehicles using diesel and petrol. Already some of the cities in the country are battling severe pollution levels due to increase in the number of vehicles. Even smaller towns have begun to feel the adverse effects of vehicular pollution.
It is a problem that has to be addressed at every level and the petroleum companies have done their bit in spending large amounts of money and technological research in reducing sulphur content in fuels from the huge amount of 300 ppm some years ago to just ten ppm now. That is indeed a phenomenal contribution to the country’s march towards cleaner environment and commitment to contain temperature rise below 2 degrees celsius as mandated under the Paris Agreement.
The issue, therefore, is containing pollution to mitigate the catastrophic effects of global warming by developing newer technologies and taking recourse to cleaner energy sources that are available in the country like solar, wind, water, bio-fuels and reducing dependence on coal as a source of power generation. The country still depends much on coal to meet its energy requirements. That has to reduce substantially in the coming years.
There is also effort to use nuclear energy as an alternative. But this source again is not very cost effective for various reasons and has a very long gestation period. India is not the only country depending on coal as a source for power generation. Japan and Germany have switched back to coal-fired power plants after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster which killed nearly 20000 people in Japan. This disaster led to people in the two countries to force closure of a majority of nuclear power plants and switch over to coal-fired energy generation. This is unfortunate. India has lessons to learn from this experience and manage its energy scenario in a futuristic manner so that all goals are achieved without causing environmental degradation.
As a firm commitment to the Paris Agreement the country has already started expanding the role of solar energy in the nation’s power scenario. Much stress is being laid on alternative sources of energy. Also emphasis is being put on introducing electrical vehicles for public transport as well as smaller automobiles like cars and even mobikes. So in the next few years the country will witness several major changes in the energy sector as developments are taking place towards switching over to the cleaner energy sources. The oil manufacturing companies have indeed done a pioneering work in their field worth emulating by other polluting industries.