Jatropha, a different biofuel
Extracts from an Ecoworld article on Jatropha
Jatropha isn't a well known biofuel, like corn or sugar cane, but when it comes to producing bio-diesel, Jatropha may be have the highest energy payback of any biofuel. Moreover, unlike corn or sugar cane, Jatropha is a perennial, yielding oil seed for decades after planting, and it can grow without irrigation in arid conditions where corn and sugar cane could never thrive.
The African continent, which at 29 million square kilometers in size is nearly as large as Asia, is relatively sparsely populated by comparison. It is also a continent of spectacular natural wealth, having vast reserves of land with climates ideal for growing Jatropha. Over half of the land in Africa is considered suitable for Jatropha cultivation. If only 2% of that land was used to cultivate Jatropha, it would yield as much oil per year as U.S. oil companies expect - best case - to remove from Alaska's north slope over the next 20 years. And after 20 years, these fields of Jatropha would still be producing oil, whereas the Alaskan oil fields would be dry.
If, to use an extreme case, 25% of Africa's land deemed suitable to grow Jatropha were used for that purpose, the yearly output would match 100% of the current oil consumption in the USA. Needless to say, such a scenario would also erase forever the landscape of poverty that has plagued Africans for decades. And where the Sahara and Kalahari are on the march, Jatropha can grow, storing moisture, stablizing soil, and slowing if not reversing desertification.
It isn't practical to expect Jatropha, or biofuel in general, to completely replace crude oil. But conventional estimates of how much biofuel might actually be produced if grown on a massive commercial scale worldwide may be low, particularly when taking into account what may be superior yields from crops such as Jatropha. - Ed "Redwood" Ring
The article goes on to explain both promising and problematic aspects of growing this plant for biodiesel.
Thanks to Enviropundit. Here's a readable and very good report on using jatropha to combat desertification and a German site on the same subject.
UPDATE: in the "Comments" Joe Greene (email@example.com) writes:
Jatropha Curcas is a front runner as a feedstock for the production of biodiesel. Jatropha is a shrub/bush that produces seed pods with multiple large oil bearing seeds.
While Jatropha Curcas is making big inroads in Africa, it is having more impact in India. India has set a national energy policy around Jatropha and another oil bearing seed tree.
D1 Oils of the U.K. is leading the way around the world in creating Jatropha plantations in India, China, Africa and even Saudi Arabia. Recently D1 Oils contracted with an Indian company to produce 100 million Jatropha 'seedlings' from cell culture.
Jatropha Curcas probably originated in Mexico and Central American millions of years ago. Jatropha could be a huge economic boon to Mexico - if developed there as a biodiesel feedstock. The potential is enormous - a chance to create thousands of jobs in Mexico for Mexicans. But the government and business graft and corruption may never allow it to happen.
Unfortunately, Jatropha Curcas will not grow in frost prone climates. A frost tolerant - frost resistant variety could be developed - but no one is doing it.
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