(The Sun) From Uche Usim, Abuja -- When the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, assumed office in 2015, one of the programmes he highlighted the Muhammadu Buhari administration would face headlong was biofuels production which he described as the future of combustible energy.
Consequently, he challenged the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to fast track the development of the National Biofuels Policy and incentive document to provide an enabling environment for the biofuels industry to thrive.
Though the policy was initiated in 2007, the government has not mustered the necessary political will to properly articulate and implement it.
But the Acting Executive Secretary/Chief Executive of PPPRA, Victor Shidok, on February 3 held a stakeholders’ meeting to outline ways of actualising planned biofuels production in the country. At the event, he described the project as the country’s new economy of the country, while urging stakeholders to support it.
In this interview, he speaks more on the gains of biofuel.
A lot more advantages accrue from this industry, which offers an alternative to fossil fuel thus providing cleaner and cheaper energy. In fact, it is the new economy of Nigeria. That is where the world is going and Nigeria cannot be left out. It is worthy of mention that this great initiative is being undertaken in conjunction with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), state and Federal Government, ministries and other stakeholders, which include feedstock farmers, blenders, depot owners and potential investors. No matter how laudable government initiatives are, they cannot enjoy good success without the buy-in of the people for whom such policies are designed in the first place. That is the reason why we need the media at this critical moment of our national experience to help spread the gospel to all Nigerians.
Where we are
The policy is still at the draft stage. What we have done at our level in PPPRA is coordination. This is to ensure that we bring in key stakeholders, who are interested in the development of the biofuel, carry them along, come up and articulate their interests and concerns and send them to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources because it is the supervising Ministry. Bear in mind that this policy cuts across different ministries and agencies in Nigeria, especially the CBN. You can talk about Ministry of Environment and Agriculture, including others that are interested. So basically, it will be an all-encompassing project that captures the interests and the role expected of every agency that keys into the production of biofuels in Nigeria.
You said there are concerns that the production of ethanol may trigger competition for cassava, either to be used as food or in biofuels production. Well, to answer that, I’ll say that if we want to move forward as a nation, we must revamp agriculture and it is one of the key aspects being tackled by this administration. However, in the production of bio-diesel, the main component needed for it is Jathropha and this plant does not compete with any food crop because it is not edible for human beings or for animals. For ethanol, you will notice that in the past few years, the Federal Government has galvanised the production of cassava to such a level that all of us are enjoying the benefits now. The contribution of cassava to the production of ethanol is not going to have any serious effect on its consumption by human beings. The most important thing is that the adoption of the policy is going to make all of us to work harder, it will make us look at how we can mechanise our agricultural sector in order to reduce the stress associated with it, as well as empower the average farmer to produce much more than he is presently producing. At the end of the day, I believe that based on the wide consultations and engagements being done currently, we are going to have farm produce that are going to be enough for domestic use and for export. So there won’t be problems about cassava usage because based on the policy, our farmers are going to be enabled to produce much more than will be required. This new policy is all-encompassing as it captures virtually all the concerns of everyone regarding the production of ethanol for biofuel.
Percentage of ethanol
We cannot just go into production and have sufficient biofuels to meet the demand we are targeting. So hopefully, when production starts, if we are able to get the required volume for E-5, which is five per cent ethanol in petrol, then we will begin with that.
So we are going to concentrate on the West African market...
Also, our target is to see how we can engage our youths in the production of agricultural feedstock that provides the necessary inputs for the production of ethanol. When that policy is full blown, naturally you will expect that migration from the rural areas will be reduced. For most of the people you see migrating are doing so due to the fact they don’t have gainful things to do in their villages.
I can tell you that the vehicle many of us use today can take up to E-10 of biofuel. You will only have a challenge when you go beyond E-10. READ MORE
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(Ebony Herald Magazine)