Sunday, August 26, 2012

My thoughts on the NPR article "How A Biofuel Dream Called Jatropha Came Crashing Down"

So I was recently shown this article by a good friend of mine! Now, this is an incredibly important read by everyone pretty much, especially those interested in biofuels.

But this isn't completely damning of Jatropha, as the article explicitly states. All it states is that there was significant hype about Jatropha (much of which was unfounded-which is true), and several of the methods tried (mainly replacing Jatropha as a food crop and growing it sans fertilizers and adequate rain) failed. One of the prominent "myths" busted was that Jatropha does not need many nutrients to grow. While not false per se, Jatropha certainly needs an adequate amount of nutrition and water in order to achieve yields that are useful economically. That's why promoting Jatropha to farmers as a "you don't have to do anything it'll make money" kind of solution is very bad-not only because it'll fail and hurt the farmers, but also because that will seriously hinder future attempts to introduce Jatropha in different fashions in the future (along with ruining trust between foreigners and locals-on the Project Jatropha site, and in other blog posts, we've talked about the trust issue).

While it certainly is important to distinguish the hype from fact regarding Jatropha, the article itself states that there are alternative methods for growing Jatropha that should not be ruled out-such as small scale hedges among poor farmers (which is what Project Jatropha advocates). In addition, the article mentions that further research about Jatropha is needed to determine its future viability (of which the article claims it has, although more research is definitely needed).

All in all, important information. It may not be the news people want to hear, but it must be heard nonetheless.

Link: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/08/22/159391553/how-a-biofuel-dream-called-jatropha-came-crashing-down



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