Have We Seen the End of Jatropha as a Potential Biofuel?
by Brian Westenhaus (OilPrice.com) According to Promode Kant from the Institute of Green Economy in India and Shuirong Wu of the Chinese Academy of Forestry some 12.8 million ha (49,421 square miles) are expected to be planted with jatropha by 2015. Most anyone would be thrilled that such a large area is going to support jatropha oil for fuel production and offer incomes to subsistent farmers.
…Wu and Kant writing in a Viewpoint article entitled ‘The Extraordinary Collapse of Jatropha as a Global Biofuel’ published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that what they call the “extraordinary collapse of Jatropha as a biofuel” appears to be due to “an extreme case of a well intentioned top down climate mitigation approach, undertaken without adequate preparation and ignoring conflict of interest, and adopted in good faith by other countries, gone awry bringing misery to millions of poorest people across the world”.
… There is basic reason for this – the plant has not been domesticated, hybridized and developed across growing conditions. In comparison, U.S. corn has been in development since before the U.S. Civil War from the simplest farming practice of saving the best of a crop for the next year’s seed to billions of dollars of investment in genetic study and engineering.
…Jatropha very well could develop into a major cash crop offering a bonanza of alternative fuel. But it “ain’t gonna happen” without a common sense approach with research, development, investment in hybridization, genetic engineering and dedication by the supplies of the seed and other inputs, the farmers and oil processors – and finally consumers.
The jatropha catastrophe isn’t about jatropha; it’s about central planning, big government, and the concentration of power. It can backfire with astonishing results:
The whole of the U.S. corn crop, some 40% of the world’s production takes less than 20,000 square miles. Jatropha is set to be planted across 2 ½ times that area – enough that if all corn farmers were as productive as America’s, the same area as committed to jatropha would account for world corn production. An average U.S. corn acre makes about 420 gallons of ethanol. The best jatropha makes nearly 75 gallons. That’s something to consider very carefully when biofuels are discussed. READ MORE and MORE (Biofuels Digest) Read Viewpoint Editorial