Monday, August 31, 2009
A sciency look into the future
Dear followers of Project Jatropha,
Jatropha curcas is a remarkable plant that has great potential for biofuel production and will almost certainly be a power player in said industry for some time to come. However, there are other pioneering biofuel technologies that are proving to have great potential: namely cellulosic and algal biofuel technologies. Both technologies have the capacity to produce very large quantities of biofuel, far in excess of what Jatropha or any other first-generation biofuel plant could make; both technologies could theoretically replace a good fraction of the fuel needs of America, as detailed in a recent Scientific American article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=grassoline-biofuels-beyond-corn#comments. However, such technologies are still at least 10-15 years away due to economic and logistical issues that must be overcome in order to make these sources of biofuel competitive. In addition, it will take some time for those technologies to be perfected so that small, uneducated farmers could afford and operate them. Project Jatropha, on the other hand, is easy to understand among small farmers, and, from a financial perspective, relatively cheap. Regardless, there is a high probability that cellulosic and algal biofuel technologies will be a part of the myriad of ways to mitigate climate change. Until then though, Jatropha curcas and other biofuels such as switchgrass can act as very effective bridge biofuels that can at least partially supply the fuel needs of society.