Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jatropha: From Haitian Voodoo to Biodiesel Holy Grail

Jatropha has the potential to produce 4 times the amount of biodiesel as soybeans and 1.5 times the amount of even a dedicated oil crop such as canola. This alone has been enough to make people sit up and take notice, but jatropha’s true beauty lies in the fact that it can be grown on literal wasteland — land that has been left for dead with little rainfall, poor soils, and a harsh climate.

Bayer CropSience has done a significant amount of research on jatropha and found that the shrub doesn’t produce nearly the amount of biodiesel as oil palm does (click on chart to the left for a larger copy).

But oil palm has some serious problems to overcome before becoming a truly viable and environmentally-friendly biodiesel crop — including deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiesel quality, to name just a few.

Additionally, jatropha can be grown in a much wider range of climates than oil palm. Virtually the entire continent of Africa has the potential to grow jatropha — representing a huge source of rural income for many poverty-stricken countries around the world