13 February 2008

Tropical Palm Oil vsJatropha Oil: Why Not Both?

Palm oil produces higher yields than Jatropha oil, by about 5 to 3. But monoculture palm oil plantations destroy large areas of tropical forest, along with the entire ecostructure that depends upon those forests. The Chinese investors in palm oil plantations do not care about the environment, but there is evidence that Japanese investors in palm oil are thinking about sustainability.
The plant will utilize jatropha curcas and palm oil for biodiesel and power production. The crops are to be established on 100,000 hectares of plantations. Besides biodiesel, a biogas plant will be build to utilize waste streams from the crop processing operations.___Biopact
By combining the cultivation of jatropha along with palm oil, the Japanese venture protects and builds the topsoil, and increases yields--using less cultivated land. By also using biomass waste streams from crop processing, the Japanese project achieves still greater energy yield from the same land area.Biofuels can be developed responsibly, or they can be developed without concern for long-term consequences. The Chinese seem to be acting with a reckless disregard for the environment, whereas the Japanese are acting in a more civilised and responsible way. Wanton destruction of tropical habitat is not the proper way to develop biofuels.

Palm oil has so much better oil yields per hectare than soy, corn, rapeseed, etc. that (like corn ethanol) biodiesel from North American oil seed crops could not survive without government subsidies and tariffs. North Americans can do better by taking the algae approach, and by using biomass energies.

Economic indicators suggest that palm oil biodiesel is beginning to be taken seriously on world markets. Let's hope that the Japanese approach takes precedence over the Chinese approach.

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