The extraordinary collapse of Jatropha as a biofuel

Jatropha Curcas seeds from jatrophacurcasplantations.com

Story submitted by Ronald C. Henry

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

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80 thoughts on “The extraordinary collapse of Jatropha as a biofuel

  1. The biggest conmen in Britain were involved in trying to flog this lemon all over Turkey and Africa. With those spivs involved, you just KNOW it was a total con.

  2. It seems that econuts produce more oil than anything else. Harvested by shooting themselves in the foot in a process similar to tapping maple trees for syrup.

  3. Bob Geldof gave it his big seal of approval – another Geldof disaster……..

    Biofuel should be banned as should wind farms and solar panels in the UK – if we the taxpayers have to subsidise anything let it be Thorium based nuclear power.

  4. “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. ”

    Just admit it, the knowledge problem prevents the possibility of centrally-planning this endeavor. No amount of protocols will help, and in fact they would probably make things worse. If this were a profitable venture, millions of individuals would find ways to most efficiently grow and process it. Just commanding from on high that it will work usually means that it won’t work.

  5. Another fine example of the law of unintended consequences – if it was unintended. I’m sure many evil people have got rich out of yet another AGW-derived scam and millions more innocent people have been left in a worse state of poverty.

  6. What’s everybody getting so upset about? This Public Policy Boondoggle will only to waste a few $Billion on top of the $Trillion already flushed down the Gaia Public Policy Appeasement commode.

    What’s a few $Billion compared to the hundreds of $Billions squandered on wind turbines, solar farms, and high speed rail between Nowhere and Cant Get There From Here?

    C’mon really . . . we need to be realistic about the greenie stupidity we expose and mock. Certainly the “north of $50Billion wasted per Project” is a target rich environment and I’d suggest we use that as the “Waste Line” for ridicule and exposure.

    /sarc off

  7. One really should “test the waters” before “jumping in with both feet.” Or headfirst.

    Oh, they did – in 1993-1994.

    Seems like they could have spent a couple decades on plant husbandry to come up with a better commercial plant. Perhaps we can expect more of these if oil prices stay high or go higher.

  8. If it has the letters “Bio” in it, it should be “Bio-Food”. Other than construction or food, any use for anything Bio is a gross and negligent misuse of a precious renewable resource.

    Use for fuel anything that can’t be eaten, and don’t displace that which could be eaten for something that can be used for fuel….unless you’ve got too much food.

  9. @Brian Johnson uk
    Are you referring to a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)? One has yet to be built and the closest example, the ORNL Molten-salt reactor, never actually used thorium and was never used to generate electricity. While it sounds good, on paper, isn’t that what’s said about all the green projects?

  10. Let’s hope the ‘due diligence’ remains bad. Like any other criminal syndicate, the Carbon Mafia will only disappear after most of its participants decide it’s a money-loser. The ‘science’ stuff is just flash and dazzle to bring in the marks.

  11. It rather reminds me of the British government’s disastrous GROUNDNUT SCHEME in the period of austerity after the war. Food was still rationed at the time. The groundnuts were to produce edible oil on a large scale from virgin land in Africa. It was a total disaster which soaked up millions of pounds and never produced any usable quantity of oil. Rusting equipment still litters the bush over sixty year later.

  12. Let me get this straight. East of Africe in 2008 switches crops to biofuel, 2011 mass starvation. I must be oversimplifying this in my mind or misinterpreting.

  13. Let small risks be taken by a few people willing to accept them. Let them profit from success. When governments impose mitigation schemes, it forces us all to accept big risks, and pay for the big failures. But let’s not forget they meant well.

  14. Genuine question: In what way is burning oil from “Jatropha” (whatever that may be) any better than burning fossil fuel oil, in terms of “climate change mitigation strategy”? Is the CO2 produced by Jatropha better than other forms of CO2? (Really. I’m not trying to score points here – I just don’t get it.)

  15. A few years from now there will be similar reports regarding wind turbines. As yet, they are still being planted on marginal land using both direct and indirect subsidizes from tax payers. Trying to find out of what type the subsidizes are and how much money is involved is a bit hard. Likewise for their contribution to society. I believe they do have oil and other resources (rare earth metals) that can be harvested but not nearly enough to recover the cost of doing so. With Jatropha the lands are more easily reclaimed.

  16. If they would just get those pesky orangutangs out of the way….
    ….palm oil would be profitable

  17. MorinMoss says:
    August 7, 2011 at 11:24 am
    “@Brian Johnson uk
    Are you referring to a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)? One has yet to be built and the closest example, the ORNL Molten-salt reactor, never actually used thorium and was never used to generate electricity. While it sounds good, on paper, isn’t that what’s said about all the green projects?”

    The German HTR used Thorium and produced power over years. Not Molten Salts but pellets in a Helium atmosphere.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300

  18. Perhaps the Jatropha plant carries a virus that it transmits to humans that causes such infected humans to do crazy things that help the Jatropha plant propagate itself.

    Propagation of the Jatropha plant sure seems to have been the only result of all this craziness.

  19. High time for a quick & comprehensive resolution of the UNO General Assembly to make blending snake oil into diesel fuel compulsory. It would also have the beneficial effect of boosting the snake oil market, making plenty of jobs for the needy. What more one could wish for?

    /sarc off

  20. I loved this part of the Wikipedia entry on the Groundnut Scheme:

    “When the Colonial Office sent two men to help the locals form their own trade union, the locals decided to go on strike in support of the dockworkers at Dar-es-Salaam and demanded better pay and more food. Increased wages of the workers also contributed to local inflation and villagers did not find enough money for food.”

    The more things change…

  21. It is very telling to read about the lack of ‘due diligence’.

    In the distant past, political decisions only involved things that politicians understood – wars and treaties, for example. The decisions used to be taken by politicians, and they often made sense.

    Then by the 1950s and 1960s, with the huge state expansion of that time, political decisions started to involve technical issues. So the politicians got internal technical advisers, and occasionally listened to them, though they usually treated them with disdain, as ‘oily rags’. Technical farming advice is probably essential if you are thinking about mass planting.

    By the 2000s, politicians dropped internal technical advisers, in favour of lobbyists and activists. Activists, in particular, do not accept technical advice unless it supports their cause. Jatropha supported the cause. Away they went….

  22. Chinese Tallow are considered the third most productive biodiesel species behind algae and oil palm.

    They grow in a wide range in the southern US and are considered invasive. I have about a dozen of them.

    http://www.esrla.com/pdf/tallow.pdf

    They grow explosively. They require no irrigation, tillage, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and very little fertilizer. They are drought, flood, and cold tolerant. Indeed, the fear of wide scale cultivation is escaping from the farm and displacing native species. They become productive in 3 years and will grow to 100 years old.

    The only “care” mine get are pruning so they don’t form an impenetrable jungle from the ground up as the branches start low on the tree and hang down until they touch the ground.

  23. John F. Hultquist says:
    August 7, 2011 at 11:56 am

    “A few years from now there will be similar reports regarding wind turbines.”

    Doubtful. My older daughter is environmentally concerned. The electric company where she’s at, she lives about 25 miles from me and has a different electric company than mine, offers “pure wind power” at $0.08/kWh. Most of you would give your left nut for electricity at 8 cents per kilowatt hour. Hell even I pay $0.11/kWh and I’m in non-profit cooperative and I don’t buy “green” energy.

  24. James Evans asks:
    “Genuine question: In what way is burning oil from “Jatropha” (whatever that may be) any better than burning fossil fuel oil, in terms of “climate change mitigation strategy”? Is the CO2 produced by Jatropha better than other forms of CO2?”

    The carbon dioxide in the biofuel is just recycled from the atmosphere (the plant removes it from the air, ‘stores’ it as plant material and it is then released back to the air when burned). The carbon dioxide from oil or coal or nat gas is ‘new’ to the atmosphere, as it has been stored away underground for a few million years.

  25. …… a well intentioned top down …. is, I think the key phrase here. Guys in suits in a boardroom thinking they’re the collective Chief Scientific Officer of an entrepreneurial start-up operation. Doomed from the get-go.

    To add some balance here, there are real entrepreneurial operations that have been set up by real Chief Scientific Officers and businessmen. The best ones (for example, Amyris, Codexis, Solazyme) have gone public, ergo surviving the intense financial scrutiny of doing an IPO, and things are looking good in this truly entrepreneurial sector. They’ve done it by focusing on higher value specialty chemicals primarily (using synthetic biology or white chemistry), but cellulosic prices and microbiology look to be on course to intersect and make real biofuels independently of any subsidies.

    Just standing up here for the scientists who are not scam artists. A couple of examples of where the industry is right now (Khosla appears to be updating his article to real time):

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/biofuels-primer-part-one-with-professor-khosla/

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2011/02/04/resistance-is-futile-codexis-and-the-chase-for-low-cost-cellulosic-sugars/

  26. Even the mentioned Wikipedia Jatropha entry hints at the level of the scam:

    Estimates of Jatropha seed yield vary widely, due to a lack of research data, the genetic diversity of the crop, the range of environments in which it is grown, and Jatropha‘s perennial life cycle. Seed yields under cultivation can range from 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms per hectare, corresponding to extractable oil yields of 540 to 680 litres per hectare (58 to 73 US gallons per acre).[14] Time Magazine recently cited the potential for as much as 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel per acre per year. [15]

    14. Dar, William D. (6 December 2007). “Research needed to cut risks to biofuel farmers”. Science and Development Network.
    15. Padgett, Tim (February 6, 2009). “The Next Big Biofuel?”. Time Magazine.

    Extractable oil yields of 58 to 73 US gallons per acre, Time Magazine in 2009 said there could potentially be as much as 1,600 gallons of biodiesel per acre.

    Biodiesel production must be substantially different for Jatropha compared to common vegetable oils, since I have never heard before of more than a 20x increase in volume produced compared to the starting amount of oil. Truly amazing, no wonder they saw such potential in it.

    Or did they somehow think they could develop the plant for more that twenty times the yield than what it currently gets under cultivation? What other plant were they cultivating that made them think it was possible, and can they legally sell it in California for medicinal purposes?

  27. James Evans says:
    August 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

    “Genuine question: In what way is burning oil from “Jatropha” (whatever that may be) any better than burning fossil fuel oil, in terms of “climate change mitigation strategy”? Is the CO2 produced by Jatropha better than other forms of CO2? (Really. I’m not trying to score points here – I just don’t get it.)”

    The carbon in biofuel comes from the atmosphere. It’s called “carbon neutral” because the amount of CO2 that is emitted to the atmosphere by combustion is exactly the same amount taken from the atmosphere when the plant was growing. Fossil fuels on the other hand are carbon that was stored tens of millions of years ago and if we didn’t pump it out of the ground it would stay locked in the ground indefinitely.

  28. MorinMoss says:
    August 7, 2011 at 11:24 am

    @Brian Johnson uk
    Are you referring to a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)? One has yet to be built and the closest example, the ORNL Molten-salt reactor, never actually used thorium and was never used to generate electricity. While it sounds good, on paper, isn’t that what’s said about all the green projects?
    _____________________________________________________________________________
    Perhaps you should watch this short, 16 min video:

  29. MorinMoss says:
    August 7, 2011 at 11:24 am
    @Brian Johnson uk

    “Are you referring to a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)? One has yet to be built and the closest example, the ORNL Molten-salt reactor, never actually used thorium and was never used to generate electricity.”

    Wrong. A 75 megawatt LFT research reactor was built and operated at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1950’s and 1960’s and operated continuously for ten years. Some claim that uranium reactors won the day because they produce weapons grade fissile material. I’m not so sure about that. Maintaining the right chemistry in a LFTR is not easy since it doesn’t burn spontaneously like enriched uranium. The fuel needs constant processing including enriched uranium as an ignitor. Given the technology has been around for 50 years it seems like someone would have brought it out of mothballs long before now if it had any significant cost advantage.

  30. “…millions of marginal farmers and landless people were encouraged to plant Jatropha…”

    “…more than 10000 small farmers have established Jatropha plantations and many more have done so in the rest of East Africa…”

    “…bringing misery to millions of poorest people across the world…”

    And yet the rabid fecal munchers have the unmitigated gall to claim that “Big Oil” is evil.

  31. @ Brian Johnson uk says: August 7, 2011 at 10:51 am Biofuel should be banned as should wind farms and solar panels in the UK
    I am fascinated by the latest stats from UK’s DECC. Wind made up 5.6% of the 89GW of installed power, but the MWh of energy they delivered in 2010 was 0.4% of the total. That works out at an effective load factor of 7%. I agree with Brian – wind farms don’t seem to make much sense.

  32. Fred from Canuckistan says on August 7, 2011 at 11:22 am

    What’s everybody getting so upset about? This Public Policy Boondoggle will only to waste a few $Billion on top of the $Trillion already flushed down the Gaia Public Policy Appeasement commode. …

    What I would like to know, is, WHERE do the self-identified physicists (like Typhoid -er- Typhoon) from the Rossi Cold Fusion thread stand when it comes to questioning the veracity and viability of a project like this (yet Rossi and his privately-funded/private-industry funded project gets the Third Degree by ‘science’) …

    .

  33. Bah! How could anybody have been so stupid as to invest in such an obvious scam? It defies the imagination!

    Now tulips, on the other hand, there’s a solid investment with guaranteed returns! Or, there’s this up-and-coming can’t-miss firm called the South Sea Company; crackerjack payoff, trust me. Better yet (and don’t spread this around), dot-coms; wave of the future; sky-high potential!

    Oh, you’d rather invest in something more tangible? My friend, I have just one word for you: sub-prime mortgages. They’re backed by honest-to-goodness solid real estate property, and that never goes down!

    No? I can see you’re a wise and careful investor, sir, so for you I recommend the most solid investment of all; rock-solid, in fact. Over 200 years of steady, reliable returns, renowned as the safest haven ever for jittery investors around the world: United States Government debt, backed by the full faith, honesty, and competence of the politicians in Washington, DC. The highest AAA rating in the world, and–

    No??? Dang. Well, you force me to reveal my trump card, sir, the surest investment in the universe. I dare not speak its name, but I will reveal that until recently there was one born every minute. Nowadays it’s more like every second, especially in places like Washington, Sacramento, Canberra, and London, so the growth potential is obv– Yes? Excellent! How much would you like to invest, Mr. Pachauri?

  34. From Dave Springer on August 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm:

    Chinese Tallow are considered the third most productive biodiesel species behind algae and oil palm.

    They grow in a wide range in the southern US and are considered invasive. I have about a dozen of them.

    Great, another Asian Invasion to worry about. Here in Pennsylvania we’re getting regularly hammered with Public Service Announcements about the Emerald Ash Borer beetle that could wipe out every ash tree in the US. (“Don’t move firewood! Buy it where you burn it!”)

    Have we forgotten about the chestnut blight brought in with Chinese and/or Japanese Chestnut trees that virtually eradicated the American Chestnut tree?

    Kudzu.

    And now you gleefully announce you are actively harboring an invasive Asian species? Have you no shame?

  35. The final paragraph of this excerpt from Alan Wood, The Groundnut Affair
    (THE BODLEY HEAD: LONDON, 1950) is rather amusing …

    http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/groundnt.htm

    “Workers in the area ten years later would occasionally find tractors buried in depressions. The explanation was that the tractor drivers were paid according to the number of hours their tractor engines were running as recorded on a timer attached to the engine. Some drivers found that they could drive their tractors off in the bush and find a depression where the tractors were out of sight. The drivers then could go into town and drink for eight hours before collecting their tractors and collecting their pay. However after that much drinking they sometimes could not find their tractors and the tractors would be covered over the years by wind-blown dirt and dust.”

  36. Correction to my LFTR post. It was Oak Ridge not Livermore. It was 7.5 megawatts not 75 megawatts. It was operated continuously for 5 years not 10. Aside from those details the rest is accurate.

    Moreover, it is single-liquid where the chemistry is difficult to maintain (ORNL was single liquid). In dual liquid the chemistry is easier but there is no known material with the requisite properties for the plumbing other than graphite which doesn’t hold up long enough under high heat to be practical – it becomes brittle and cracks. Any modern incarnation has unsolved materials problems to deal with. Piping made with copper-reinforced graphite cloth is being talked about but no ones knows if it will work or not. The single liquid design it is still too difficult to control the chemistry. In the single liquid design one of the great difficulties is that highly corrosive chemicals are produced in the liquid that will destroy the plumbing if not constantly (and expensively) removed as it is generated.

    Old technologies abandoned for “political reasons” that sound too good to be true invariably are just that – not true – and hauling them out of the dustbin of history for a second look is just a way to get a payday for the principals without ever producing anything of value.

    This sounds mostly like wishful thinking. Perhaps not as wishful as fusion reactors but shares the same basic problem in that no known materials can stand up in the operating environment long enough to make operation economical.

  37. @Dr Dave I’ve seen that video before and other longer ones featuring Borrowmee and Sorenson.
    It’s very interesting and promising but it’s still at the research / early experimental phase. Far too soon to be thinking of ditching other technologies and burning more coal. Really, the US should stop worrying about terrorists seeking bomb material, shore up their existing nuke infrastructure and START REPROCESSING nuke waste.

  38. @Dave Springer
    LLNL? Do you have links? I think you have some facts wrong – Oak Ridge, not Lawrence Livermore; late 60s not since 50s; seven-point-4 not seventy-five megawatts; ran (not continuously ) for about 5 yrs, not 10.
    Also, while U233, bred from thorium, was used as fuel towards the end of the experiment, it was NOT BRED IN THE REACTOR, and no thorium blanket was ever used. So, while it’s very likely this would work, it has never actually been done and it’s unlikely that, even if the engineering challenges turn out to be relatively easy, that we would see commercial deployment of thorium reactors in less than 20 years.

  39. “…oil productivity is hugely variable.”
    The sense of urgency and head-long rush for biofuel created by CAGW has created such disasters. Gone is the ‘years of research, experience and understanding’ required to underpin thriving agriculture. The investment (including research funding) has been too much too soon.

    Take microalgae for example, while I’ve no doubt that the Craig Ventors of this world have reliable high-oil producing strains up their slieves, research teams quickly find that high oil content does not always equate with fast growth and ease of cultivation. Some strains are easier and less costly to harvest, but these aren’t always the good oil producers; contamination and predation can be problems. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but I reckon anyone who is in the microalgae game needs to be sure they can stick with it for the long hall.

    Even growing willow for biomass is not with out problems and careful cultivar selection is important to reduce susceptibility to disease.

    @dave38 August 7, 2011 at 11:32 am
    thanks for the link to the groundnut scheme. It’s a perfect example of the application of will over commonsense.

  40. In India the provisions of mandatory blending could not be enforced as seed production fell far short of the expectation

    Don’t tell me, the production potential was greatly hyped beyond the reality, right? I will bet that if you look at the reporting over the years, the reported potential walked up with each report. An initial expected range was probably documented somewhere. The high end of that range then became the baseline expectation. The same thing happens with wind and solar production expectations. Wind farms are sold with “capacity” numbers that far exceed, often by over 300% of actual production.

    I have seen this sort of thing in every single alternative energy scheme that has come down the pike.

  41. The iceman cometh says:
    August 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Do you have a DECC url for this reference?

    I am fascinated by the latest stats from UK’s DECC. Wind made up 5.6% of the 89GW of installed power, but the MWh of energy they delivered in 2010 was 0.4% of the total. That works out at an effective load factor of 7%. I agree with Brian – wind farms don’t seem to make much sense.

    I’d like to point it out to my local MP.

    Many thanks in advance

  42. @Dave Springer
    I see you corrected your post shortly before I responded. I don’t doubt thorium will be a significant player – one day – but that day is not here and not soon

  43. Hey what are we worried about biofuel for? All we have to do is pass a law that our cars have to get 54 mpg and wala our energy worries are over. And they say government can’t solve our problems!

  44. Instead of looking wildly for alternative enrgies–or taking the trouble to bash them–How about simply promoting the reality that coal and other fossils will green the Earth?

    Carbon dioxide makes plants and we can increase the carrying capacity of our Earth by freeing the fossils form their long entombment.

    And the difference between “biofuels” CO2 and that produced by fossils? The former are merely renewable in that the sun can make more of them. The latter are superrenewable, in that once freed by being burned, they then make forests or other burnable biofuels that are renewable as long as the world lasts.

  45. Dave Springer says:
    August 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm
    The fuel needs constant processing including enriched uranium as an ignitor.

    Constant processing is an advantage. That’s what allows us to avoid expensive reprocessing. Th produces 233U and from that point, no 235U is needed. Another cost advantage is not having to manufacture solid fuel in the first place. Another is not having to store large amounts of waste. Another is being able to burn almost all of the fuel insted of 1 to 3% of it.

    I’m surprised. You usually do better than that.

  46. We don’t need thorium. We already have technology that has been built and proven to work. We could use a “combined fuel cycle” facility where you have two conventional plants and one fast breeder plant combined with a reprocessing facility on site. The only thing going in to the plant is normal natural non enriched U238. The only thing that comes out is relatively short half-life waste components that decay to background in less than 500 years and can’t be weaponized. No material that can be weaponized ever moves outside the site.

  47. Cellulosic ethanol makes steps toward commercial implementation ….

    http://wallacesfarmer.com/story.aspx/iowa-a-step-closer-to-cellulosic-ethanol-production-9-51115

    Using farm waste as an addition to their corn ethanol plants – increases the yield of the corn planted plus can use waste from “food” corn and other biomass feedstock sources …

    Jatropha – a perfect parallel to the GWS- Global Warming Scam ;-) … claims of certain science and all manner of benefits – few if any truly supported by clear, undisputed science of fact – luckily we haven’t gone down the mass implementation of the “plan” as with Jatropha

  48. @MorinMoss who wrote:

    @Brian Johnson uk
    Are you referring to a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)? One has yet to be built and the closest example, the ORNL Molten-salt reactor, never actually used thorium and was never used to generate electricity. While it sounds good, on paper, isn’t that what’s said about all the green projects?

    I believe he was talking about funding another research project like those at Argonne which, as I recall, were started twice in the last 27 years by Republican administrations and canceled twice by Democratic administrations, most recently by Clinton. See http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf (December, 2005.)

    We are currently sitting on our bums, losing what expertise we once had to retirements, while other nations are far ahead of us in this research. Yes, we need funding for breeder reactor research. It would cost far less than the federal monies that have been wasted on wind power or on solar power, not to mention all the bio-fuels fiascoes. It’s time to get serious, but nobody seems to realize how far behind the USA is in nuclear research.

  49. The thought occurs, and forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, is that if biodiesel / biofuels / whatever are a ‘CO2 mitigation strategy’, how does burning fossil fuel result in less Carbon Dioxide emitted than biofuel? Given that both have essentially equal calorific values / contaminant levels.

    Surely ‘biofuels’ are ‘less’ green than the stuff from out of the ground. Especially since biofuel production first requires ‘ordinary’ fuel to power the machinery for preparing the ground, planting the crop, fertilise and treat with pesticides before processing the crop ready for conversion and refining into biofuel even before it is ready to be used as a fuel source.

  50. It would be interesting to have a breakdown on the loss of agricultural production in each country as a result of this crop (and not as a result of drought, el nino etc).

    Poor fellows.

  51. Dave Springer says:
    August 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm
    “My older daughter is environmentally concerned. The electric company where she’s at, she lives about 25 miles from me and has a different electric company than mine, offers “pure wind power” at $0.08/kWh. ”

    They can do that in the US because they get tax credits when they build the wind farm. The subsidy does not have to be added to the prize of the other electricity your daughter needs (yes, the evil electricity that she needs when the wind doesn’t blow).
    .

  52. Henry chance says:
    August 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Jatropha oil with a 15% snake oil blend.

    J85!

  53. Most farmers in a region know from long experience what grows well and makes money in their locale. Every once in a while, under economic distress, farmers get talked into something stupid. In eastern Wyoming in the 1990s, I think, there were some conmen who sold a large number of people on planting “artichokes”. As it turned out these were not edible nor useful for anything except seeds to sell to bigger fools to plant these same artichokes (like the old Goon Show routine). Those artichokes were very difficult to remove from fields–lots of opportunity costs.

  54. Dave Springer says: “My older daughter is environmentally concerned. The electric company where she’s at, she lives about 25 miles from me and has a different electric company than mine, offers “pure wind power” at $0.08/kWh.”

    Check your wallet, Dave. You’re probably getting your pocket picked for the difference between 8 cents/kwh and the real cost.

  55. I believe in the all the above approach. I dont think we should be using food to burn while people are starving in the world. I think this jatropha could be a good alternative but it seems too premature. A PBS public television show called the journal thejournalol.com with Joan Lunden talked about biofuels as a future solution. We need to tap all our resources until we have a definite solution. We cant let the global warming scam dictate our policy. The PBS series was informative but nothing concrete. America can not afford to be lead by people who subscribe to the global warming scam. 25 years ago we were all going the freeze. What if we enacted policy around that scam?

  56. In a way, the Jatropha thing was an ill-timed closing of a “circle of fraud.”

    By now we were supposed to have a global carbon emissions scheme, with “developed” nations, in atonement for their carbon sins, sending massive gobs of cash to “developing” countries, with the built-in assurances that the “developing” nations wouldn’t develop further and become much-larger carbon polluters themselves.

    The “developing” nations then get sold on growing crops for biofuels, with Jatropha looking attractive as suitable for land they wouldn’t be using for food production anyway. But biofuels are at least subject to the market force of competitiveness with each other. The cost of the product has to be low enough to compete with other biofuels, and all this development of Jatropha farming should have led to lots of production which would have driven down the market price. End result, the Jatropha farmers would be basically enslaved to the buyers, working for a subsistence income without local market demand and no one else to sell to, likely working land unsuitable for raising anything better, with the biofuel feedstock (if not the actual biofuel) being shipped to the “developed” countries. And because their countries won’t be developing into anything offering better opportunities anytime soon, that’s the best those farmers can get.

    Meanwhile in the “developed” countries, with the mandated use of biofuels artificially driving up the prices for the consumers, the dealers in biofuels will make significant profits, for what came from feedstock bought dirt cheap. And who will be selling the biofuels, which are to be blended with traditional “carbon polluting” fuels? The same “Big Oil” that was to be punished by the carbon taxes.

    Consumers get hit up for carbon taxes, that wealth gets “redistributed,” residents of the receiving countries (who likely won’t see any benefit from the money) are enslaved as cheap labor growing feedstock, which becomes expensive fuel for the carbon tax payers. Who, in ways direct and indirect, will pay carbon taxes on the biofuel as well. With “Big Oil” soaking up a good share of the “liberated” money getting sloshed around, while assorted governments split up the rest.

    That would have been quite a sweet setup. It’s a crying shame it didn’t pan out.

  57. Amazing, I was actually talking to a Jatropha farmer last night.

    I need to be careful but I am disappointed with a lot of responses, as only a few referenced the misery inflicted on the poorest farmers. Why was this.

    Two simple problems along with Banking greed. Jatropha only really has one problem, a social problem, it is very difficult to hand harvest a fruit when its ripe, when it fruits all the time. Secondly, no thought was given to making a viable market or distribution system for the finished product.

    I note also nobody mentions the report by Lord Monckton re Pachuris direct involvement in the Jatropha business but from the Banking side. This is where the money was made, setting up the financing and financial instruments made the bankers very rich but the farmers very poor.

    I note all the comments about yields and performance, very true but readily fixed and that I was discussing with the farmer n question ( no dummy, he is building an ethanol plant and owns 17,000 hectares).

    The concept is good but when the concept was launched it was to benefit bankers not farmers or to provide a green fuel.

  58. You have to laugh don’t you?

    Here in Zimbabwe the government in the form of our Central Bank governor took time out from printing $100 trillion dollar notes to build a Bio Diesel plant of 5 million liters a month capacity. He paid a South Korean company $20m real American dollars to design and build it. The President opened the plant and called upon our “new farmers” to supply Jatropha berries in great quantities so that we could overcome the “evil” western sanctions.

    This all happened six years ago.

    Total amount of bio diesel produced to date . . Zero.

  59. Comrades: reading all of the above, I congratulate the capitalist world for adopting the glorious traditions of true socialist agriculture. Be not distracted by what appear to be initial setbacks; they just require true diligence, devotion,encouraging the media to report according to The Truth, and the eliminination of saboteurs. Applying the principles of Lyssenkoist biology will increase the oil yield of Jatropha easily by more than a pitiful twentyfold. I must admit that I had doubts as to the true socialist spirit of these programmes, but reading this: “The drivers then could go into town and drink for eight hours before collecting their tractors and collecting their pay. However after that much drinking they sometimes could not find their tractors and the tractors would be covered over the years by wind-blown dirt and dust” confirmed that it was done in true Soviet tradition. I will watch, Comrades, hopefully and cheerful, from far-off Workuta.

  60. To use any land for a monoculture that has limited return and destroys the local ecology cannot be a good idea. To grow biofuel plants instead of food crops is criminal.

    Biodiesel has been shown to produce less power and destroy engine parts like injectors due to low lubricant properties. Two good reasons for not using it plus the fact that you can’t eat biofuel.

  61. If jatropha goes pear shaped at least it might take some pressure off the rain forest in S.America and Indonesia which was being slashed and burnt to make way for the new crop. Unintended consequencies indeed.

  62. jorgekafkazar says:
    August 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    “Dave Springer says: “My older daughter is environmentally concerned. The electric company where she’s at, she lives about 25 miles from me and has a different electric company than mine, offers “pure wind power” at $0.08/kWh.”

    “Check your wallet, Dave. You’re probably getting your pocket picked for the difference between 8 cents/kwh and the real cost.”

    Possibly. There are restrictions on that rate. The home must meet certain standards for energy efficiency and must have an energy audit completed showing compliance. Thermostat can not be set lower than 79 degrees in the summer and probably some maximum in the winter which I didn’t ask about. I was pretty shocked that their electric bill for a 3000 sq.ft. house is only $80/mo. Water is another story though. If they water their small lawn regularly that bill can hit $300/mo in the summer and they have little choice due to HOA convenants requiring lawns be well maintained. Personally I don’t have any landscape plants, including lawn grass, that can’t survive without irrigation. If it isn’t producing food for the table it’s on its own.

  63. From the article: “the Commission may have relied too heavily on the opinion of one of its top functionaries, who expected an internal rate of return ranging from 19 to 28% across India”.
    My mother was a proofreader. She made a career out of correcting other people’s errors because, as she put it, it is almost impossible for anyone to catch all of their own mistakes. For this reason, editors, proofreaders, and peer-review exist.
    NEVER trust the unchecked opinion of a single person.

  64. I recall reading that the UK Dept of giving-money-away-to-foreigners gave money to India to plant Jatropha. The India based staff stayed in their offices and were delighted to report the acres planted, but were later upset by a journalist who had the audacity to actually go out and look what was happening – the swine – and reported unharvested and poor crop and impoverished farmers, who had been promised much.
    Have to laugh, to stop myself weeping or getting VERY cross. Ground nut scheme revisited it seems.

  65. Guess no one ever heard about prototyping and scaling up. That is the only thing that has prevented similar disasters for cellulose based alcohol development.

    So step back, take a deep breath, and fund selective breeding and genetic upgrading for the plant in each of the countries that want to grow it. That is what domestication really is.

  66. If the polar bears were living forever; would have being 3-4 bears stuck on the top of each other. People drown / bears drown… The real reason they emphasize that is getting too hot for the bear in Arctic circle is: people to accept that: if is getting too hot there – what will happen in the subtropics…? Start panicking, what are you waiting for?! The real problem is: if is no carbon tax, Warmist adhesive fingers are useless.

  67. Well, possibly the last word here. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again:

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2011/08/09/bharat-petroleum-sg-biofuels-ink-deal-for-massive-jatropha-2-0-deployment-in-india/

    The good thing about real science is that you can learn from failed experiments, and are not doomed to repeat them. Remember there’s a huge driving force here – the drive to create oil country-type wealth. It’s close enough to reality that it’s not going down without a fight.

  68. @John Marshall I think you’re mistaken about biodiesel and engine parts. The problem with it used to be that it would dissolve natural rubber and engine deposits, which could then clog the filters. But its lubricity is superior to petroleum diesel and you get a bit extra power as it naturally contains about 10% O2 whereas petrodiesel has none.
    But it’s the ULSD products that are most damaging to engine parts and adding in a small %age of biodiesel helps a lot.

    http://www.eng.wayne.edu/page.php?id=4986

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