Jatropha

I was reading another misleading article that biofuel will compete with food production, when I noticed a comment about Jatropha. I often wonder why so called “scientists” think that biofuel will keep someone from eating their dinner when the opposite is actually more likely. The Wikipedia explains:

Originating in the Caribbean, the jatropha was spread as a valuable hedge plant to Africa and Asia by Portuguese traders. Currently the tree is widely used as a poverty reduction measure in Tamil Nadu, India, and is being promoted as a very easy to grow biofuel crop in hundreds of projects throughout India and the third world. The rail line between Mumbai and Delhi is planted with Jatropha and the train itself runs on 15-20% biodiesel.

Not sure if there is a direct connection, but if growing a native flowering bush is all that is required to run a train on 15-20%…it’s easy to see why the petroleum companies are so down on biodiesel if even the poor can generate their own source of fuel. Hmmm, can you imagine smaller trains and fueling stations all along the tracks? And I don’t think anyone is thinking about eating the Jatropha so the impact to feedstocks is yet again a big fat 0.

A different comment mentioned “the most promising research is into algae, 50% oil by weight, that could grow in glass frames in desert areas.” Seaweed is a similar bountiful source…the list of natural oils outside the food industry is virtually endless. And that was the whole purpose of Rudolph Diesel’s engine, to provide security to engine owners by offering them the ability to use a decentralized source of fuel.

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