Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari Wednesday pitched for alternative fuels such as ethanol and methanol along with electric vehicles, reiterating that the government's policy is to reduce import, enhance exports and curb pollution.
The minister, who had in 2017 threatened to "bulldoze" the auto industry to adopt electric vehicles, struck a conciliatory note and said the government was not against petrol and diesel fuels.
"Our policy is very clear. We want to reduce imports, increase exports and finish pollution," he said at the annual convention of the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) in Delhi.
Stating that India is facing two major issues - pollution and rising imports of fuels Gadkari said, "Import bill is increasing due to the rise in automobile sector. This is the biggest challenge facing our economy and for that we have come out with a programme."
He said a policy for import substitution would be prepared. "Alternative fuels is necessary for us," he said, adding there was a huge potential that can be be tapped from bio-products such as molasses, cotton straw, biomass and corn to produce ethanol which can be used as automotive fuel.
Gadkari, however, added that "alternate fuels cannot progress without your support". Seeking to address concerns in the automotive industry over the future of conventional fuels, he said, "I am not against petrol, diesel and we are not closing any industry."
Appreciating the "change in the mindset" of auto industry, the minister said the government has already made clear its priority areas to the industry and cited example of how GST on electric vehicles was reduced to promote eco-friendly technology and combat pollution.
Stating that his ministry has decided on a pilot project to run methanol-powered buses on the Mumbai-Pune route as well as in Guwahati, Gadkari asked the private sector to participate in the adoption of alternate fuels. He also asked the auto industry to use waterways for logistics to trim cost and lower pollution, which in turn will contribute to the growth of the economy.