The current American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology has a most amazing story demonstrating the foolish, indeed outright dangerous, application of the “precautionary principle” to AGW mitigation.
The story is at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es201943v, but all you really need to know is summarized in the last paragraph.
[ Note from Anthony: IPCC co-author, Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz paper entitled “Yield and Oil Content Ideotypes Specification in Jatropha curcas L.” won Best Scientific Poster Award for Agricultural Sciences by the National Academy of Science and Technology on July 15, 2010.
It looks like Al Gore via his Goldman Sachs train-wreck had a hand in this nonsense too. See the Wikipedia description for Jatropha:
In 2007 Goldman Sachs cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. It is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil, averaging 34.4%. The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production. However, despite their abundance and use as oil and reclamation plants, none of the Jatropha species have been properly domesticated and, as a result, their productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of their large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown. ]
The Extraordinary Collapse of Jatropha as a Global Biofuel
Promode Kant , Institute of Green Economy, C-312, Defence Colony, New Delhi 110024, India
Shuirong Wu Chinese Academy of Forestry, Wanshoushan, Haidian District, Beijing 100091, China
Blending of fossil diesel with biodiesel is an important climate change mitigation strategy across the world. In 2003 the Planning Commission of India decided to introduce mandatory blending over increasingly larger parts of the country and reach countrywide 30% blending status by the year 2020 and opted for nonedible oilseed species of Jatropha curcus raised over lands unsuited to agriculture as it was considered to be high in oil content, early yielding, nonbrowsable and requiring little irrigation and even less management.
In a massive planting program of unprecedented scale millions of marginal farmers and landless people were encouraged to plant Jatropha across India through attractive schemes.
In Tanzania more than 10000 small farmers have established Jatropha plantations and many more have done so in the rest of East Africa.(2) By 2008, Jatropha had already been planted over an estimated 900000 ha globally of which an overwhelming 85% was in Asia, 13% in Africa and the rest in Latin America, and by 2015 Jatropha is expected to be planted on 12.8 million ha worldwide.(5)
But the results are anything but encouraging. In India the provisions of mandatory blending could not be enforced as seed production fell far short of the expectation and a recent study has reported discontinuance by 85% of the Jatropha farmers.(1) In China also until today there is very little production of biodiesel from Jatropha seeds. In Tanzania the results are very unsatisfactory and a research study found the net present value of a five-year investment in Jatropha plantation was negative with a loss of US$ 65 per ha on lands with yields of 2 tons/ha of seeds and only slightly beneficial at US$ 9 per ha with yields of 3 tons when the average expected Jatropha seed yield on poor barren soils is only 1.7 to 2.2 tons/ha. Even on normal fertile soils (average seed yield 3.9 to 7.5 tons/ha) Jatropha was no match for sunflower.(2, 4)
Though acclaimed widely for its oil, Jatropha was never considered economically important enough for domestication and its seed and oil productivity is hugely variable.
A case study of Jatropha plantations raised in 1993–1994 in the Indian province of Andhra Pradesh had reported actual yields that were far below expectations and the species was found to be prone to termite attacks, water logging, vulnerable to drought in the planting year and delayed yields.(3)
It appears to be an extreme case of a well intentioned top down climate mitigation approach, undertaken without adequate preparation and ignoring conflict of interest, and adopted in good faith by other countries, gone awry bringing misery to millions of poorest people across the world. And it happened because the principle of “due diligence” before taking up large ventures was ignored everywhere. As climate mitigation and adaptation activities intensify attracting large investments there is danger of such lapses becoming more frequent unless “due diligence” is institutionalized and appropriate protocols developed to avoid conflict of interest of research organizations. As an immediate step an international body like the FAO may have to intervene to stop further extension of Jatropha in new areas without adequate research inputs. Greater investments in dissemination of scientific data will help in ensuring due diligence does not cause undue delays in decision making.
The full story is at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es201943v