The Union Cabinet has directed the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry to make it mandatory for all oil marketing companies to sell petrol mixed with 5 per cent of ethanol.

In November 2006, the Centre mandated that five per cent ethanol be blended in petrol to be sold all through India, except the north-eastern States and Jammu and Kashmir, and that the amount of ethanol in petrol be optionally increased to 10 per cent from October 2007 and made compulsory from October 2008. But Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited could not even ensure the 5 per cent blend, citing ethanol shortage.

On Thursday, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs made it mandatory for the oil companies to sell petrol with five per cent ethanol. “The CCEA reiterated an earlier decision that there shall be a mandatory blending of five per cent of ethanol. It has instructed the Petroleum Ministry to ensure that all oil marketing companies implement the decision,” Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told journalists here.

To ensure that there was no hitch in supply of ethanol, a small group of officials, representing the Ministries of Food and Consumer Affairs, Renewable Energy and Petroleum and Natural Gas, would be constituted, he said.

There has been 84 per cent shortfall in the ethanol procurement by the oil marketing companies this fiscal; till September, the companies have procured a mere 4.75 crore litres against a prorated tender quantity of 30.25 crore litres. While no procurement has been made so far in West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, other States like Maharashtra have recorded a 98 per cent shortfall. Procurement has also been extremely low in Uttarakhand, Kerala and Gujarat.

The group of officials would monitor the demand and supply of ethanol and ensure that the environment-friendly programme was implemented in letter and in spirit. “There is enough ethanol in the country. There is no reason why temporary dislocation in supply should derail a good programme,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

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