Monday, April 25

The unconsidered impacts of Jatropha biodiesel

Fairly typical situation here. People are getting all excited about biodiesel and thinking its the next thing to sliced bread. Let me quote the abstract.

Governments around the world see biofuels as a common solution to the multiple policy challenges posed by energy insecurity, climate change and falling farmer incomes. The Indian government has enthusiastically adopted a second-generation feedstock – the oilseed-bearing shrub, Jatropha curcas – for an ambitious national biodiesel program. Studies estimating the production capacity and potential land use implications of this program have typically assumed that the ‘waste land’ slated for Jatropha production has no economic value and that no activities of note will be displaced by plantation development. Here we examine the specific local impacts of rapid Jatropha plantation development on rural livelihoods and land use in Rajasthan, India. We find that in Jhadol Tehsil, Jatropha is planted on both government and private land, and has typically displaced grazing and forage collection. For those at the socioeconomic margins, these unconsidered impacts counteract the very benefits that the biofuel programs aim to create. The Rajasthan case demonstrates that local land-use impacts need to be integrated into decision-making for national targets and global biofuel promotion efforts.

So they have conveniently given some research highlights

► Hardy biofuel crops like Jatropha replace edible feedstocks that use arable land.

► In Rajasthan, Jatropha displaces grazing and forage on both public and private land.

► As Jatropha plantations mature, the loss of grass becomes more pronounced.

► Unconsidered impacts negate the benefits that the biodiesel program aims to create.

► Local land-use impacts need to be integrated into decision-making.

The authors further state

the science of Jatropha is seriously lacking. Although many university, government and industry researchers are working to refine planting materials and management techniques, the plant's five-year maturation period has so far impeded quick progress. The formal, peer-reviewed publication of scientific research has also been slow, which may result, in part, from concerns about intellectual property rights in an industry that has garnered substantial interest from investors. Without refined management techniques and planting materials, rapid plantation development may limit benefits for decades. Since the plants can live for 50 years, the impact of poor planting materials and early pruning mistakes will be magnified in the long term. Overall, it is unlikely that Jatropha will become a successful cash crop within the current scientific and policy climate, given the poor state of knowledge of the plant's agronomy and the disappointing seed yields in block plantations.

More work required before thinking this is a panacea for India and the world’s fuel issues.

1 comment:

Kentbiofuel said...

Cool Blog!!!

I agree with your comments on the science of jatropha! here are two great example of how Indian people can get more than biofuels from their plantation please ask anyone you know from Reliance to read this!

Furthermore utilisation of the byproducts of biofuel production can also bring industry to some of the poorest parts of India

This next clip shows Jatropha in India... monoculture and underutilisation of the plant because the view is biofuelcentric not holistic!

Keep up the great blog!