Fueling the Future? the Hunt for a Sustainable Biofuel

By Boyd, Robynne | Earth Island Journal, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Fueling the Future? the Hunt for a Sustainable Biofuel


Boyd, Robynne, Earth Island Journal


The wind blowing through LaBelle, Florida was soft and warm. Large, billowy clouds hung above Mark Dalton's 10-acre field, dappling it with shadows. The field, planted in January 2008, was a regiment of seedlings standing erect in the sandy soil--precisely 2,125 plants lining each of the 364 rows. Dalton kneeled and pointed at a six-inch-tall sapling. Two of its three small leaves were round and yellowish green; the third emerged from the shoot's tip purplish and pointy, a sign the plant was thriving. In 18 months, the shrubs will be about four feet tall, leafy, and dotted with muscadine grape-like fruit. Hidden inside the bitter fruit will be the plant's treasure--three oil-yielding seeds.

Dalton's crop is jatropha curcus, a perennial shrub native to the tropics. When pressed, the plant's seeds release a hefty amount of oil that can be processed into a fuel used in diesel engines. Jatropha is one of the "highest yielding oil crops, and, unlike most plants grown for biofuels, it thrives where others cannot. It requires modest amounts of fertilizer, grows in marginal soil, is pest resistant, and needs to be planted only once every 50 years. It can go without a drop of water for six months, although 12 inches of rain a year is ideal for steady growth.

Indigenous Peoples of Central America used its long-burning seeds as candles. Today; in parts of Africa and India, jatropha is grown as a living fence. The plant goes by many names, including Barbados, physic, and black vomit nut, for its purgative properties. Some have called it a "miracle plant."

Like many biofuel entrepreneurs, Mark Dalton and his brother Paul, the founders of My Dream Fuels, call jatropha their liquid gold. The Daltons are unlikely environmental pioneers. Paul used to be an attorney Mark is an ex-navy photographer and all-round handyman. Neither of them are eco-geeks, but both believe that jatropha can contribute to the world's energy mix in the 21st century. And they are not alone. University and corporate researchers say that jatropha and other biofuels could help wean America from its dependence on fossil fuels, cut carbon emissions, and buy time to design a low-carbon economy.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Many others aren't so sure. A growing chorus of critics say biofuels will continue our consumption-based lifestyles, usurp agricultural land used for growing food, and increase carbon emissions.

Biofuels, once heralded as the path to a sustainable future, are now at a crossroads as people question whether using plants for fuel will be an eco-solution or an environmental disaster.

Growing Gas

As farmers around the globe rush to plant corn, soy, sugarcane, and oil palm to be made into fuel, concerns about biofuels are escalating. Much of the worry centers on the trade-off between using land for fuel versus food. As biofuel production soars, so in turn, do global food prices. Although it's difficult to calculate the exact extent to which biofuels are responsible for the rise in food prices, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute deduced through modeling that 25 to 33 percent of the increase in food prices between 2000 and 2007 appears to be driven by biofuels.

Another concern is deforestation. "Brazil is chopping down the Amazon, Argentina is tearing up the prairie, and Malaysia and Indonesia are chopping down forests and burning up peat bogs for sugarcane and palm," says Eric Holtz-Jimenez, the director of Food First. 'And it's not even about a renewable future. It's about the South growing fuel for the North."

In the US, a portion of the country's corn harvest has long been used to produce ethanol. But the nation's race for biofuels didn't really start until 2006, when President Bush used his State of the Union Address to advocate for a dramatic increase in biofuel production as a way of reducing reliance on foreign oil. When Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard set a target of 715 billion gallons of biofuels by 2012 and at least 36 billion gallons by 2022. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Fueling the Future? the Hunt for a Sustainable Biofuel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.