Going Green

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

India's Bio Fuel Hope?

Jatropha as a bio fuel source -- from Nature.

Published online 10 October 2007
Nature 449, 652-655 (2007)

Biofuel: The little shrub that could - maybe

India, like many countries, has high hopes for jatropha as a biofuel source, but little is known about how to make it a successful crop. Daemon Fairless digs for the roots of a new enthusiasm.

By: Daemon Fairless

With a top speed of about 110 kilometres an hour, India's Shatabdi Express is not much to brag about by the standards of a French TGV or a Japanese Shinkansen train. Nonetheless, as the stock for one of the country's fastest and most luxurious passenger lines, the Shatabdi trains have a certain prestige. So when, on New Year's Eve 2002, the Shatabdi train from New Delhi to Amritsar was powered in part with biodiesel for the first time, it was a clear statement of the government's desire to wean India off imported petroleum.

Diesel is India's main liquid fuel: the country burns roughly 44 million tonnes, or 320 million barrels, of the stuff a year, as opposed to about 94 million barrels of gasoline. The trains account for a significant part of that. Kunj Mittal, who heads the government-operated rail service's engineering and traction division, says its fleet of 4,000 engines currently burns about 1.7 million tonnes a year, and that he wants to replace at least 10% of that with biodiesel at some unspecified point in the future. But he would need 200 million litres of biodiesel a year. Which is a problem. “At this stage,” says Mittal, “there is no mass production of biodiesel.”

Like many others around India, the rail service is looking to an unprepossessing, poisonous scrub weed to try to do something about that. It has planted a million Jatropha curcas seedlings on unused land along its tracks and elsewhere. It's just...(complete article here).

I've never heard of jatropha before. Moving wild plant species around the planet and planting them on a large scale seems a little risky to me.

No comments: