Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jatropha


Much Sense in Jatropha. Spare the edible oils.


Jatropha plant image courtsey: kanpurdehat.nic.in


Pressing panic buttons, or just a warning?


“Oil may trade around $ 100 a barrel” Jim Rojers.


Panic grips the world at the thought of living without oil; energy security has become the buzz-word among economists and strategists. The hunt is on for alternative fuel that can replace the depleting sources of crude hasn’t made any headway. Oil has been a political weapon ever since the first Gulf-war. Developing nations bear the brunt as they are forced to cough up all their savings to buy oil and forced to cut food allocations.


Indonesia and Malaysia both rich in palm oil have been promoting its use as a feed stock for the production of biodiesel. Many a companies have joined their bandwagon starting biodiesel plants using palm oil as feed stock. India, Brazil and Thailand are rich in sugarcane farms and hence tilting towards ethanol, which can be sourced from sugar factories. This article is a comparative study about the alternative fuels and the pros and cons of going for them.


What about palm oil ???


Palm oil fruit image courtsey: community.foe.co.uk


This is a recent report from Kuala Lumpur, on April 9, 2007 “crude palm oil prices jumped 1% in a single day to reach its 8 year high $ 618 a tonne”. Malaysian palm oil prices soared 40% last year because of bio-diesel demand. Palm oil being a widely consumed food such soaring prices can put poor people in difficulties inviting law and order issues. It is beyond doubt that the governments of these nations will be forced to discard the dreams of promoting palm oil as a feed stock for biodiesel within short time.


Too much ethanol may make the sugar sour.


Ethanol is a sugar factory bye product used to blend in petrol. India is a big sugarcane producer, this year there is lot to spare, last year it was deficient and exports had to be banned, that is the sugar story. Sugarcane crop is highly water sensitive it may either wilt in slight drought or die out in floods. Its sustained supply is not at all guaranteed. Any surge in sugar price can invite political interference stopping supply of cane to biodiesel plants thereby chocking of feed stock supply.


Australia’s mission.


Without feed stock no industry can churn out any products and bio-diesel industry is no exception. Listen to Mr. Nathan Mahalingam, Managing Director of Australia’s Mission bio-fuels Ltd, He rightly opines that the biodiesel industry is heading for consolidation in three to five years as rising raw material cost may put small, independent producers under pressure and most probably they may be pushed out of business. Only producers with assured feedstock chain will survive.


Mr. Mahalingam has also stated that his company will ultimately switch over to jatropha oil which is 40% cheaper than palm oil which is perhaps the sweetest part in his remarks.





Ethanol expert turns to jatropha.


The carbon cycle image courtsey: eia.doe.gov


It is more heartening to see that the “ethanol experts” Brazil has also started to look towards jatropha, Brazilian giant Bionasa is all set to start a mega plantation of 2,00,000 thousand hectare jatropha plantation there. The 2% blending of bio-fuel Brazil has made mandatory is fast attracting more multinationals towards this direction, no doubt the ethanol saga will be repeated in jatropha also.


Time of the idea has come.


Jatropha was formerly a wild plant now widely cultivated for its seeds which yield un-edible oil in larger quantity per hectare and needs less water or care. These facts are only recently recognized by the governments and big companies and they are all out to exploit the recently opened opportunity. Many governments (especially European) have made it mandatory to blend bio-fuels to varying proportions. And an infinite market has opened before a producer for selling the product, only issue being feed-stock availability.


Exciting opportunities in India.


It has become a survival strategy for companies to have their own crop lest their plants will idle. The Australian mission along with all other players is all out to increase the acreage of the jatropha crops. They have already started 22,000 acre plantation in India itself and all out to expand it to 100,000 acres.


Lalu’s grace!


Laloo Prasad Yadav image courtsey: rediff.com


Indian railway minister Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav (a smart person with villager like antiques who turned the Indian Railway around and has become a case study subject even for the Harvard University) is also planning to enter in to jatropha cultivation in a big way, as Indian Railway has got millions of acres of waste lands spread all across the country there is tremendous scope for the railways to do it in economical scale. At present these lands are laying useless to anybody but antisocial elements, this decision can go a long way in boosting Railway’s image.


A rural bias.


The real beneficiaries of a serious conversion of Railway’s wastelands will be India’s rural folks who may get assured job and income once it is implemented. Such creative steps by local bodies and wasteland owners can open a new vista for small and medium enterprises as well as medium sized companies to start jatropha seed-crushing and biodiesel refining factories, sourcing the seeds from farmers and corporations thereby creating a win- win situation to all involved.


Oil and its unlimited requirements.


Even if the whole waste land of the earth is converted in to jatropha plantations it will not be enough to meet bourgeoning demand for fuel that is the size of the market, it may be boon to the farmers who are engaged in growing undesirable crops like tobacco or opium. Supply constraint in feedstock being the only concern it will be a seller’s market for long time to come.


Farmers of whole world, unite!


Farmer image courtsey: nue.okstate.edu


Present farmers who find markets unfriendly to absorb their produce may turn to this plant as producer is the king in a seller’s market. Farmers of all worlds, unite! You have nothing to loose but poverty, to gain a ready and receptive market! Where sellers are kings, live life king size.


Related Reading

Jatropha - The Rag to Riches story of a humble plant.


9 comments:

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