Monday, April 07, 2008

Is Jatropha a "Dream Fuel?" We'll See

According to some researchers, Jatropha Curcus can produce four times the fuel per area than soy, and ten times more than maize. My Dream Fuel LLC in La Belle, Florida, is gambling that jatropha will work as well in the US as it is beginning to work in other parts of the world.
Nearly 1 million seedlings are in the ground at a nursery in Hendry County and promoters are looking for farmers – here and across the country – to raise them as oil-producing plants....Researchers say the plant can produce four times more fuel per acre than soy, and 10 times more than corn.

...The Jatropha tree, native to Mexico and Latin America, has been grown in other countries, such as India and Africa, for fuel and medicine. It produces fruit with oily seeds that can be crushed to make biodiesel.

In India, there are large plantations with millions of Jatropha trees and My Dream Fuel has a contract with the government to train 1,500 farmers to grow the trees. In China, there are now more than 1 million acres of Jatropha growing.

Locally, Dalton has so much faith in the trees that he expects to put another 1 million in the ground in LaBelle before June. ___Source__via__NextEnergy
Bio-energy will be an actively expanding area for small to medium scale investment in new business enterprise. The demand for new fuel is being driven by the international oil market, as well as by environmentalist restrictions on oil drilling and refinery construction in the US.

A regional approach to bio-energy is the wise approach. Each new enterprise should be based upon the needs of the particular region, and its bio-assets. Jatropha will not grow in areas that are subject to frost, so are not an answer for regions too far away from the tropics. Switchgrass, on the other hand, can be grown in cold and arid regions, and can be converted into almost any hydrocarbon fuel using gasification methods. Not quite as economical as jatropha for diesel, certainly, but with the price of oil ever rising, it makes sense to start looking at processes that were uneconomical when oil was under $40 a barrel.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

There seem to be a lot of potential alternatives to alternatives. And while both skeptics and supporters are dead certain that they know whether a given approach is a sure bet or a giant scam, I think separate egg baskets are the best idea at the time.

While I am not a fan of subsidies and governments picking winners, some people seem to feel that supporting the "wrong" approach will cause it to magically out perform the "correct" one in an unsustainable way. The right mix will emerge and in twenty years it will not matter if we invested a bit too much in solar vs wind or vise versa or that we over emphasized one biofuel at the expense of another.

It is also important for us to remember that investment in alternative liquid fuel industries are means of developing chemical industrial techniques which can have spin-offs that have nothing to do with the energy market. As cropland efficiency and productivity improves, the use of locally produced bio oil could provide other economic input without adding new land, producing chemical feed stocks for local chemical industries that avoid using ones that need to be shipped in using energy intensive transport. Just because something is not the answer to one problem does not mean it can't answer another.

7:01 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

Right. I keep harping on the benefits of biofuels and biomass for local and regional economies. That's where the development impetus should be coming from.

The opportunities for small business startups are immense. Besides the young guns eager to prove themselves, there are a lot of retired doctors, lawyers, execs, bankers, salesmen, tradesmen, etc. who have very nice nest eggs and are looking to invest in something small, but with good potential for significant sustained income.

5:39 PM  

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