Biodiesel in India: Jatropha Takes Center Stage


While there is no single solution to providing clean energy, India certainly isn't hesitating when it sees a good thing. As we have pointed out before, jatropha is a plant that may provide India with a socially and ecologically sound option for increased fuel consumption. The MIT Technology Review has a nice news article on the subject, but to highlight their findings:

- The plant can grow in wastelands (where food crops can't)
- Yields four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean
- Yields ten times as much fuel per hectare as corn
- One hectare can produce 1,892 liters of fuel
- Converting plant oil to clean fuel requires only one stepThe ability to grow cultivated crops of jatropha was something of a question mark until now. Alok Adholeya, director of The Energy and Resources Institute's (TERI) Biotechnology and Management of Bioresources division, spent five years testing different mycorrhiza microorganisms to find a system of fungi and jatropha that work well together on wasteland soils. Adholeya eventually found a fungus that improves jatropha yields by 15 percent, opening the door to even greater gains in marginal land production.

India is not the only country that may benefit from better understanding of how to cultivate the jatropha plant. Other tropical climates from Africa to South America may find growing the jatropha far easier then obtaining gasoline. The raw oil can be used as a fuel in most simple diesel engines without any modification. The plant is not edible, but the byproducts can be used for fertilizer, dye manufacture, and possibly producing syngas. ::MIT Technology Review

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