Iraq to Turn Rotten Dates Into Bioethanol

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons...
Iraq has a lot of oil (the world's third largest oil reserves), that's a well known fact. But there's something else that Iraq has a lot of: rotting dates. The country used to produce about 900,000 tonnes of dates per year before the US-led invasion of 2003, but that has since fallen to 350,000 tonnes/year. Despite the huge drop in production, that's still too much; local consumption is around 150,000 tonnes, and the surplus can't be exported because of low quality (probably due to lack of equipment and power cuts). Some are fed to animals, but a lot of dates end up just rotting. What is to be done?To fight this waste and support Iraq's farm sector (the country's #1 employer), Iraq's prime minister has approved a project to turn the rotting dates into biofuels.

Not Ideal, But It Could Be Worse
From a purely environmental point of view, the best solution would probably simply be to reduce the production of dates to match consumption (if surplus can't be exported), or switch to a different kind of crop that can be more successful. But Iraq is in a special situation, and other considerations come into play.

So since the goal is supporting employment in the farm sectors, turning dates into biofuels probably is a lesser evil. If you're going to subsidize farmers, it's good to at least do it in a way that produces something useful and that has a commercial value.

Working With a UAE Company
Details are still sketchy, but what is known is that the dates would be bought by a United Arab Emirates-based company. Faroun Ahmed Hussein, head of the national date palm board, "declined to name the company, estimate the cost of the project or say how much bioethanol it was expected to produce."

Via Reuters
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