Highlights

  • Union minister Nitin Gadkari predicted elimination of petrol use
  • Gadkari named hydrogen fuel cells, flex engines, CNG, LNG as replacements
  • Petrol use rising in India; country heavily dependent on imported crude

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Is Nitin Gadkari's prediction right or wrong - will India not have petrol after 5 years?

Union minister Nitin Gadkari named multiple alternatives which would replace petrol in cars and two-wheelers, leading to the elimination of the fossil fuel's use in India in the next 5 years.

India's road transport minister Nitin Gadkari recently predicted that petrol use would end in the country in the next 5 years. But when one looks at the huge number of cars in India, it seems next to impossible that petrol would one day not be used at all in the country.

So, is getting rid of petrol use possible? Are there viable alternatives? And will elimination of the use of petrol hurt or help India?

Before we look for answers to these questions, let's take a look at Nitin Gadkari's full statement. At an event in Akola, Maharashtra on 7 July, he said, "After 5 years, petrol will vanish from India. Your scooters, your cars will either run on green hydrogen, or ethanol flex engine, or CNG, or LNG. "

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India is currently heavily dependent on fossil fuels. 70% of India's energy demand is met through fossil fuels. In June this year, India's fuel consumption stood at 18.67 million tonnes, an 18% increase over June 2021. This amount included various petroleum products - from petrol and diesel, to LPG, jet fuel, kerosene, and others.

The use of petrol has been rising faster than the average. Petrol use in India rose over 23% in June 2022 as compared to the same month a year ago. With petrol use rising, can the alternatives named by Gadkari really replace it, that too in just 5 years?

Let's take a detailed look at the other options.

First is hydrogen fuel cell technology in which hydrogen and oxygen are combined in an electrochemical reaction. This produces electricity which powers the car's electric motor.

Next is a flex engine which is compatible with multiple fuels. It might run on petrol, or ethanol, or a mixture of the two.

Then there is CNG, or compressed natural gas. This technology has been in India for many years, and it works like gasoline-powered combustion engines. However, CNG produces lower emissions, and has lower operational costs.

Then there is LNG, or liquefied natural gas which also works like gasoline or CNG. It is pitched as a cleaner and cheaper fuel for heavy commercial vehicles.

Hurdles and challenges aside, it would actually be good for India if petrol use ends, or is even considerably reduced. India is the world's third largest oil consuming and importing nation. India met over 85% of its oil needs with imported crude in 2021-22.

Meanwhile, India's crude oil import bill nearly doubled in 2021-22 from a year earlier. The country spent $119.2 billion in Financial Year 22, as compared to $62.2 billion in Financial Year 21. The Russia-Ukraine war had a big impact on prices.

The dependence on imported crude has been accompanied by a gradual decline in domestic production. In 2019-20, India produced 32.2 million tonnes of crude. In 2020-21, this fell to 30.5 million tonnes, and in 2021-22, it stood at 29.7 million tonnes.

If Nitin Gadkari's prediction does turn out to be true, it would not just help save a lot of money, but also help the environment as Indian metros struggles with air pollution.

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