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A biofuel crop worth looking at

Whilst I was looking for some information on biofuels I came across mention of a new plant, to me, Jatropha Curcas.

It seems it is being hailed as the new bio crop as its seeds are up to 60% oil which we can use for fuel for our vehicles. It grows in some of the worst soil in the world which makes it ideal as they can sell the seeds or oil and import food which grows easier elsewhere. Global trade, using each country for what it is best for and bringing the poor up to western standards. What’s not to like?

From our viewpoint this is also an interesting crop as it will grow here, the plant themselves can be used as companion crops and help fertilise the soil. As these plants are unknown in the UK, are poisonous and don’t look like food they should be left well alone. They should survive a search for food and be seen as just trees which we can then use as necessary. After pressing and extracting the oil, one tonne of seeds produces 600L of oil, which can be made into biofuel while the remains can be made into paper, soap, cosmetics, toothpaste, cough medicine and energy pellets with the waste being composted. Jatropha can produce 2,000 barrels of oil per square mile per annum; compare that with Corn which produces less than 200 barrels for the same area. It is clearly more efficient to use Corn for food and Jatropha for fuel oil.

The plants are cheap to buy abroad but expensive in the UK, what a shocker, although the seeds are more reasonably priced. It seems like it takes a few years for the plants to grow to maturity and the only book on the subject available no, ‘Jatropha Curcas as a Premier Biofuel: Cost, Growing and Management‘, is very expensive so I won’t be getting that myself. I will be sending away for some seeds though to give them a try. They are available on eBay as well as via normal seed type routes. At £10 for 100 seeds and plants selling for £10 each, current prices on eBay, even a mass murderer of plants like me can see a potential market here.

All you would need then is a press to squeeze the oil out of the seeds and processing equipment to make the finals products, fuels, soap etc. There is a lot of potential there.

However, the plants don’t like frost. It kills them and where I live gets frost every year but I am prepared to invest time and effort protecting them otherwise I would have to leave it for those in Southern France or Spain or until a frost resistant GM version is created. Funded, funnily enough, by GM (General Motors). Either that or we actually get a bit of actual global warming.

As an aside whilst looking at this plant I came across another plant, copaifera langsdorfii, which is called the diesel tree. Apparently one tree produces 20L of fuel every six months. 100 mature trees on one acre will produce 4000L per annum. The sap/fuel goes directly into your diesel engine and needs no refining. This is too good to be true. This perfect tree needs tropical conditions to grow and is grown in South America and Australia and neither in Europe nor America. That was quick; I knew it was too good to be true.

We no longer have to grow food or fuel; we grow food where it is best and fuel where it is best. Sadly, in the UK that means these imports will be hit with high rates of tax. Even so we can not grow enough biofuels, we don’t have enough land on the planet, to replace our current use of fossil fuel. So these plants even with their massive output are only stop gap measures to appease politicians and whingey whiney people. The only thing that seems to come close to our requirements is algae. That is another article though as algae can also be used for food.

4 comments to A biofuel crop worth looking at

  • half

    Might want to read more on Jatropha, I think India has given up on this crop as a biofuel, even the greenies aren’t too keen on it.

  • Skean Dhude

    Do you know any more about what the problem is?

    It may still be a viable crop for survival fuel. Remember we have different objectives and will not have as many stupid rules as we have now. For example I’ll be more than happy to consume a bendy banana when I am hungry.

  • half

    I can’t remember what the problems where now, it was meant to be a big thing in India but I think it all fell apart around 2007. I think hemp would be a better crop, you can grow hemp now with the right paperwork and from what I’ve read its easy to get.

  • Skean Dhude

    Half,

    Hemp is something else I am looking at. It was a big crop a long time ago and went out of fashion for political reasons. I’m looking at what was grown about 100 years ago in general because it was grown for very good reasons, no environmentalism subsidies then, and probably would be useful to us after an event.

    From what I can read the Jatropha Curcas is still going strong. A hiccup in 2007 and nothing now means it is probably still viable. Remembering that we can’t grow diesel trees, we don’t have any oil where I am and I don’t see me growing that much corn.

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