The Future of Biofuelby Tim Manni
Global demand for food has caused a skyrocketing of food prices. Global demand for oil has caused a skyrocketing of gas prices. America has been criticized for biting the hand that feeds the world by committing a large supply of its home-grown corn to produce the alternative-fuel ethanol. What if there was another crop farmers could grow that wouldn’t deplete a viable portion of the world’s food source? Enter Jatropha, the poisonous shrub that could be the future of biofuel.
Indigenous to warm tropical climates, Jatropha seeds can be easily converted to biofuel and biodiesel. Approximately 20 pounds of Jatropha seeds produce one gallon of oil. Farmers estimate they can produce one gallon of oil from each tree, every year, and sell it for as little as $43 a barrel.
Earlier this month, plans were formed for a joint biofuel venture in the Southern Philippines, which plans to develop 123,500 acres of Jatropha plants. The first real test for the baby biofuel will come this fall when Air New Zealand plans to power a 747 with a mix of Jatropha fuel and gasoline.
Like many of the alternative fuel options the US is currently developing, scarcity of resources continues to make any alternative option unproductive and expensive. We’ll just have to wait and see if we can shelve corn-based ethanol, save the food source for hungry mouths, and replace it with a poisonous shrub whose only productive use could be to alter our planet for the better.