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Essay Examples - Use of Ethanol as a Fuel in India: Literature Review and Research Methodology

Home » Essay Examples » Use of Ethanol as a Fuel in India: Literature Review and Research Methodology


In Assignment one the research design phase, ethanol fuel is recognized as a plausible solution, to combating greenhouse gasses. Further, with the nation of India having an untenable dependence on imported petroleum, ethanol fuel has emerged as an attractive alternative. Three theoretical questions are identified as critical for such high-level consideration. The first question (RQ1) observes the ecological impact of growing food and fuel crops simultaneously. Pollutant levels and variant weather patterns could significantly impact both crop types. The second (RQ2) question is slightly revised to explore the economic and environmental implications of blending ethanol with petrol or another source. The third question (RQ3) examines whether technological advancement can aptly keep pace with a potentially expanded ethanol fuel market.

Concerning scope, the research methodology continually uses a quantitative/qualitative process. In this sense empirical data is gathered from assessments, to determine latent compliance levels, should the government establish ethanol fuel mandates. Qualitative examination subsequently seeks to interpret the empirical data (i.e. open-ended questions), revealing the public attitude and knowledge level of ethanol fuel. Additionally, a favorable assertion should be reached concerning the potential impact of ethanol blending on the ecosystem. Favorable assertions regarding ethanol blending will consider comparative case studies.

Research methodology: (Literature Review)

An effective literature review critically examines the what, how, and why, additional information about ethanol fuel is identified. What examines government policies, memorandums, and overall public attitudes about renewable energy use. One indicator is the “Low Carbon Growth Strategy”, which is a Government initiative to develop renewable power. The (RE) Renewable Energy project is currently in its 12th Five year plan and has a present focus on the areas of wind power, small hydro power, solar, and bio-power (Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, 2013). Studies further reveals that Ethanol is biodegradable, reducing greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions. As a renewable, plant-based feedstock, rather than harm the ecosystem the CO2 is released (fuel combustion) and eventually recycled as ethanol feedstock grows. Although corn ethanol reduces (GHG) greenhouse gas by 34-44%, sugar cane ethanol statistics are not presently known (Renewable Fuels Association, 2014).

How studies various reports including Governmental data about existent Energy Projects, case studies, Memorandums of understanding from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (Republic of India), Pilot programs such as Nagpur’s first ethanol operated bus, and additional pertinent information. Also, consideration is given regarding National Policies on Biofuels mandated by India’s Government, and examination of flex fuel technology models from countries like Brazil.

Why examines a belief developed during the research design phase that India’s exploration of renewable and eco-friendly fuel is paramount. As such various renewable energy sources are explored to assess impact related to potential performance, life cycle analysis, environmental aspect, projected financial costs, and government and population receptivity to such renewable and eco-friendly energy sources.

In general the what, how and why of chosen data collection methods is essential towards understanding the deductive/inductive approach. Further, the choice of traditionally required analysis processes utilized to respond to associated research questions and hypothesis is examined.

What examines various literature such as Memorandum’s of understanding between India and the United States. Within such documents exists the parameters for the PEACE partnership (Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy). Focus areas include communication of best practices, identification and marketing of commercially viable business models, exploration of financing vehicles, technology innovation, and personnel development for effective implementation (Government of India Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, n.d.).

How studies critical data such as existent consumer preference between ethanol and gasoline. Such data provides deductive analysis, as the evolution of the ethanol market in countries like Brazil and Sweden provide a probable blueprint for India. Brazil’s energy infrastructure in the transportation sector, reveals significant use of bioethanol for light vehicle fleet. According to (UNICA) the Brazilian sugarcane industry association, ethanol production has reached 27 billion liters as of 2008-2009 (Pacini & Silveira, 2011).

Critical drivers of ethanol expansion industry in countries like Brazil include the flex-fuel technology. Automobile manufacturers are supporting the introduction of ethanol by producing vehicles that can operate using any proportion of gasohol-ethanol. This makes for an attractive proposition to consumers who would have otherwise been encouraged by potential barriers to use. In other words, even if the government has implemented policies regarding ethanol-mix use, there needs to be opportunities for the typical consumer to use the resource. Otherwise, it will never reach the phase of expansion necessary for sustainability. A few years after the launch of the flexible fuel vehicles (FFV’s) in 2003 the automobile had a production shift. In fact, by July 2010 95 percent of Brazil’s cars had flex-fuel engines. Finance companies have partnered with the car manufacturing industry to extend more credit to the Brazil middle class to further reduce potential acquisition barriers (de Freitas & Kaneko, 2011).

Additionally, the anhydrous ethanol blend with gasoline is the preferred approach. Compared to other additives it provides superior value and a more attractive price point than other additives. The typical concentration range is from 20-25 percent and has revealed enhanced fuel performance, while mitigating carbon emission (de Freitas & Kaneko, 2011).

Why considers the inductive possibility that trends identified in Brazil could be applicable in India. For example, India could make a strategic determination to pursue sugarcane as a source of ethanol production versus corn. Especially since Brazil has shown success by establishing a fuel market made up of 51 percent sugar-based ethanol. In contrast India could inductively learn from the United States the potential downfall of corn-based ethanol which could have a contrary fiscal impact (The Hindu, 2013).

Other considerations concerning the deductive/inductive approach to ethanol production in India are pricing formulas and National Biofuel factors. In 2008, the Government of India mandated a phased approach to ethanol-petrol fuel blending. However due to lack of governmental enforcement, a date for nationwide enrollment has been continually prolonged. This is notwithstanding oil marketing companies’ efforts to delegate Rs. 3.500-crore (million) towards ethanol. Therefore, the inductive lessons include the need for governmental enforcement of established biofuel policies. Additionally, ethanol blending programs should be aggressive in terms of implementation. For example while India’s program to blend ethanol with 5 percent petrol has been sluggish, the United States and other countries have established programs for blending up to 20 percent of ethanol (The Hindu, 2013).

In 2012, India’s ethanol production was expected to grow by 29 percent to 2.1 billion liters driven by sugar-based ethanol. While this is a positive indicator industries such as molasses (from which ethanol is manufactured) have received a significant boon. Therefore, despite the fair market price for ethanol import, oil-marketing companies and ethanol producers should seek consensus on an equitable price formulary. This will ensure a consistent supply and demand balance, thus providing market stabilization (The Hindu, 2013).

Primary Data Collection:

Data collection Method: As previously mentioned the multi-faceted Quantitative and Qualitative approach is significant. The numerical, objective empirical data is essential to understand any associated algorithms or formularies necessary to derive qualitative information. Other noted benefits of qualitative data include the capacity to graph numbers revealing trends and other notable subject patterns. For example, regarding the Ethanol industry it is not an emergent industry, therefore it offers useful existing case studies. Such case studies can provide critical information while often leveraging minimal resources, thereby reducing cost (Rajasekar, Philominathan, & Chinnathambi, n.d.).

Quantitative data is equally critical as it offers exploratory information that would include deductive/inductive analysis. Such data can subsequently be used as part of a persuasive approach to implementation of proposed subject matter. One proposed data gathering approach is surveys. Potential benefits include minimal cost related to delivery and return, targeted population distribution, ease of completion, and potentially high respondent rates. However, there are also potential complications such as insufficient sample and response rates, and potential technical difficulties that must be addressed (Rajasekar, Philominathan, & Chinnathambi, n.d.). Below is a template of sample questions that could be used to target individuals. Assuming a nice mix of individuals (some with a greater knowledge about ethanol, some with moderate to no information) the results would be interesting.

Case studies have simultaneously been identified as a method for data collection. One example reported just last month, is the pilot program spearheaded by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. This pilot will include ethanol operated buses in the city of Nagpur. Labeled part of the ‘Green Bus” project, approximately 200-500 ethanol buses will run to Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). Currently India imports Rs six lakh (six hundred thousand) annually for imports including petrol, gas, and diesel. Potential benefits include the ability to decrease such imports thereby saving approximately Rs. Two lakh (two hundred thousand) annually. Additionally, the transition to ethanol (renewable fuel) will benefit four states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu who produce large volumes of ethanol (Times of India, 2014).


In conclusion there is further examination of the main goal from the first assignment. The purpose was to determine whether ethanol could be considered a beneficial fuel source in transport in India. Determining factors included whether or not the positive outcomes outweighed the negative. Also, careful analysis was conducted to ascertain data related to the three proposed questions.

The first question (RQ1) observed the ecological impact of growing food and fuel crops simultaneously. This question actually seeks to understand the impact of ethanol production especially on the environment. Certain facts related to technology development are encouraging signs. For example, less than 20 years since inception ethanol bio-refineries have enhanced ethanol yields leveraging technology advancement. As such, the amount of thermal energy used to produce a gallon of ethanol has decreased 36 percent since 1995. Also, producers are realizing 12 percent greater ethanol return on corn bushels. Although this data does not necessarily give a definitive response related to the ecological impact of growing food and fuel crops simultaneously, it does answer a critical related question. If growing food and fuel crops simultaneously require the mitigation of toxins and harmful production processes, then such data reveals unlimited possibilities (Renewable Fuels Association, 2014).

Two other important facts are equally noteworthy. The first is that CO2 emissions have been reduced based on ethanol replacing gasoline. Specific numerical indicators include an average of 34 percent reduction. The Department of Energy’s GREET model states that while  GHG emissions are reduced by 34 percent using average corn ethanol without indirect emissions the number is even more encouraging. According to the (DOE) Department of Energy, that number increases to 44 percent, without indirect emissions. Another important fact is that just last year (2013) there was a cumulative reduction of greenhouse gas emission associated with on-road vehicles by 38 million metric tons. That equates to having eight million less on the road vehicles. The volume of ethanol used to accomplish this goal was 13.3 billion gallons. This would indicate several important facts. One is that there appears to be a direct correlation between the high volume use of ethanol and the reduction of greenhouse gas emission. Another fact is that even with an expanded production of eco-friendly vehicles the impact on the environment can still be managed based on ethanol replacing gasoline (Renewable Fuels Association, 2014).

As previously mentioned the second (RQ2) question is slightly revised to explore the economic and environmental implications of blending ethanol with petrol or another source. Based on infrastructure and other considerations it is recommended that sugar is chosen to combine with the ethanol blend. Of the 328 distilleries in India, 160 are sugar mills. This creates a capacity of 2 billion liters of ethanol fuel. Out of the 2 billion liters 1.8 would be produced from sugar mills and the other 0.2 billion liters using stand-alone distilleries (Verma, 2014). The implications based on the aforementioned data is that blending ethanol with petrol is not the most economical or feasible given the distillery requirements. However, sugar distilleries currently have the capacity to produce a significant amount of ethanol necessary to transition India to the eco-friendly fuel alternative. 

The third question (RQ3) examines whether technological advancement can aptly keep pace with a potentially expanded ethanol fuel market. In a previously mentioned article Nagpur ran India’s first ethanol bus. However noteworthy is the fact that Scania a Swedish Bus Maker was the manufacturer that made this monumental demonstration possible. In further examination there are probably strategies that can be drawn from this data. First assuming the ethanol bus launch is successful there will be verifiable data to support expanding this practice to other types of vehicle. This is further validated by the fact that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari will introduce a critical bill in the Parliament during the next meeting. That Bill which will be strategically introduced following the pilot will unquestionably encourage government support for vehicles run on bio-fuels and hybrid electric (Times of India, 2014).

Also implicit is that the Swedish bus maker Scania is seeking to form a long-term partnership with countries like India. Therefore, it is not surprising that Scania is currently manufacturing a third generation, ethanol fueled engine. This engine will be installed in a wide range of trucks. What is also encouraging is that the ethanol engine has a thermal efficiency of 43 percent, which is similar to the 44 percent thermal efficiency of diesel engines. Therefore as these ethanol run vehicles become available countries like India are ideal acquisition partners. Assuming such inductive reasoning is accurate then the next step would be for India to incorporate the use of ethanol-run buses more expansively throughout the country. Not only would this give the public an opportunity to get acclimated with ethanol powered vehicles, it would simultaneously provide statistical data such as ridership, public perception, and environmental benefits. Scania has laid the groundwork for transitioning to ethanol powered vehicles by manufacturing the vehicles and forming value-based partnerships. Stockholm Public Transport has suggested that operational drawbacks should be a non-factor assuming vehicle maintenance is provided (Green Car Congress, 2014).

Finally, it is believed that a deductive/inductive approach has proven to be effective for this particular study. The existence of transportation and fuel costs being extortionate comparative to income of many Indian families is well-documented.  In fact, this disparity is something that is a global concern. In addition to the fiscal consideration, environmental factors including carbon emission has also been of concern. The introduction of ethanol as part of a broader Renewable Energy focus is documented in provided resources. In this instance quantitative data is useful to gain further insight concerning trends and future projections.

Also, critical to the research project is the role of government, and necessity of support. Documented Government memorandums, and other reported initiatives such as the operation of ethanol buses indicate a willingness to support Eco-friendly and renewable energy. Although such data is often more narrative than based on statistics, it offers substantive evidence to support continued ethanol production. What was equally important in evaluating the appropriate ethanol mix is the environmental impact and associated costs.  Based on the existence of sugar distilleries there appears to be appropriate infrastructure for manufacturing sugar-ethanol. Further the minimization of carbon emissions is a positive indicator that sugar-ethanol is a viable option. Each of these factors are derived from quantitative data as well, especially case studies.

One of the data collection methods mentioned in the first report is surveys. Based on additional research it appears that surveys would be a secondary albeit equally important data collection source. Where surveys would appear to be most helpful in the research project would be the implementation of Ethanol run vehicles. Ideally, targeting those who have been previously transported on an ethanol run bus (i.e. Nagpur) would be ideal. This target audience would have some level of familiarity with the subjective experience of being transported in an ethanol run vehicle.

Other locals, would either base their opinion on third party data, various media reports, or other non-validated information. Those without personal experience riding in an ethanol powered vehicle could however provide information related to their perception based on incoming information. This could be useful to provide the Government with a better understanding on how to educate the local communities regarding ethanol and renewable energy.


Government of India Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the United States of America on Cooperation in New and Renewable Energy to Facilitate Clean Energy Access. Retrieved from http://mnre.gov.in/mous/mou-CEA-usa.pdf

Green Car Congress. (2014). Scania Extending Heavy-Duty Ethanol Engine Technology to Trucks. Retrieved from http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/04/scania-extendin.html

Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. (2013, September). Developmental Impacts and Sustainable Governance Aspects of Renewable Energy Projects. Retrieved from http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/UserFiles/report-on-developmental-impacts-of-RE.pdf

Pacini, H., & Silveira, S. (2011, November). Consumer choice between ethanol and gasoline: Lessons from Brazil and Sweden. Science Direct, 39(11), 6936–6942. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.09.024

Rajasekar, S., Philominathan, P., & Chinnathambi, V. (n.d.). Research Methodology. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0601009.pdf

Renewable Fuels Association. (2014, March). Ethanol: Environmental Facts. Retrieved from http://www.ethanolrfa.org/pages/ethanol-facts-environment

The Hindu. (2013, January 2). Revving up on ethanol. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/revving-up-on-ethanol/article4262648.ece

Times of India. (2014, August 24). Nagpur gets India's first ethanol-run bus. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/global-warming/Nagpur-gets-Indias-first-ethanol-run-bus/articleshow/40858005.cms

Verma, A. (2014, February). The Indian Ethanol Program. Retrieved from http://www.indiansugar.com/uploads/Bangkok-_26th_Feb_2014_1_%20(1).pdf

de Freitas, L. C., & Kaneko, S. (2011, November). Ethanol demand under the flex-fuel technology regime in Brazil. Energy Economics, 33(6), 1146-1154. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2011.03.011

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