LAHORE - Diminishing energy resources, unstable oil prices, global warming, climatic extremes, and other related problems have lead the world to focus on alternate, environment friendly and renewable energy resources. Many participants accelerating the production of biodiesel from Jatropha curcas has added significant status. Over 40 countries of the world are evaluating the potential of consuming this pure vegetable oil to manufacture diesel. Pakistan as a developing country hardly meets its energy requirement from the trade in oil. A report by Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC) shows that Pakistan on an average consumes eight billion tons of diesel and 7.2 billion tons of furnace oil per year. We import about nine million tons of diesel and furnace oil per annum.

Jatropha curcas also known as ‘Ratanjyot’ or ‘Jangli Errund’, originated in Central America and distributed through tropics and subtropics is a drought-resistant, perennial plant growing well in marginal lands. The plant is best suited to sandy and well-drained soil. It can also continue in very poor soils even in saline ones. It is easy to maintain, grows quickly and gives seed production up to 50 years. It is widely grown in Asia and Africa. Being perennial plant it is largely used as a fence to protect the fields from wild animals. It is adapted to high degree of aridity and does not compete with food crops. Its blackish, thin shelled and oblong seeds greatly resemble with small castor seeds. Its seeds and kernels contain oil content up to 25-30pc and 50-60pc respectively which can be processed to produce high quality diesel fuel that burns with smokeless flame and tested effectively as a fuel for standard diesel engine. This plant can yield 0.35 to 0.37 gallon of oil per tree which means 150 gallons of oil per acre. If it is watered 3 to 5 liters per plant after every 15 days it has potential to double this amount. From its oil cake, biogas containing 70 percent methane is also produced. Biodiesel is a biodegradable compound with a degradation rate of 70- 80pc and it is 100pc natural energy substitute to petroleum fuel. Biodiesel is non-toxic and environment friendly fuel.

Here rises a question that how biodiesel is environmental friendly fuel. The answer is that the Jatropha curcas is a carbon sink. Carbon dioxide gas is emitted locally but affects globally. Pakistan is included in low greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting countries and contributes 0.43pc of world’s total GHG emission ranking 35th in the world. One hundred and ninety four big and small countries are present on this globe with their fixed boundaries but shared breathing air. No matter who donates how much to the carbon dioxide burden but all the nations suffer together. Increase in global temperature ranges 2-4.5 Co. Like other tree plants, Jatropha takes carbon from the environment and deposits in the woody tissues of the stem. Jatropha tree on an average absorbs 8 Kg of carbon dioxide every year. The biodiesel produced by Jatropha seeds offers a clean substitute of energy that not only aids to reduce emissions, but is also able to be used in diesel engines to power automobiles and farm pumps. In addition, by providing an unconventional crop to replace tobacco for rural farmers and reducing the burning of large quantities of firewood, which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide. The Fossil fuels are adding huge amounts of stored carbon dioxide to the air, where it traps the Earth’s heat like a heavy blanket causing global warming. Studies show that biodiesel reduces carbon dioxide emissions up to a significant level of 78pc and sulfur dioxide emissions up to 99pc. Bio diesel reduces chances of cancer up to 90pc. Biodiesel is blended in the petroleum diesel in most of the countries with a ratio of 20-80pc. It is reported that this blend gives good environmental gains.

      Biofuels create new markets for agricultural produce and excite rural development because these are generated from crop plants. They hold massive potential for farmers in the near future particularly for the two-third of the people in the developing world who arise their incomes from agriculture. Today, many of these farmers are too small to compete in the international market. They are mostly subsistence farmers who in a good year yield enough to feed their families, and in a bad year grow even poorer or starve. Biofuels have massive potential to alter this situation for the better one. At the communal level, producers that produce dedicated energy crops can grow their earnings and their own affordable and reliable energy source. At the national level, producing more biofuels will generate technologies, new industries, jobs and markets.

Apart from biodiesel there are several other benefits of this marvelous plant. Its seeds are used in insecticide production and medicine for constipation and skin diseases. Oil is also consumed in torches, lanterns and candles because it burns with clean carbon free smoke. In machinery it has best use as lubricant. Its oil is also used in soap industry. Oil cake produced from Jatropha is used as organic manure. Leaves are best as massage material for strained muscles. Leaves and twigs of the plant are used as brewed tea to combat malaria. Twigs are also good to be used as miswak. Nuts are used as contraceptive agent. Bark of the plant is effective as a fish poison.

      There is satisfactory potential to grow Jatropha curcas L. on big scale in the country preferably without competing for land and water under food, feed and cash crops. European Union consumes 47 pc of its vegetable oil produced in biodiesel production. Pakistan has arid to semi-arid climate, located between the longitude 61° to 76° east and between latitude 23° to 37° north. Total area of Pakistan is 79.61 million hectares. The Jatropha cultivation practice since 2007 till now has increased the assurance level towards acceptance of this exotic plant in the country. Parallel experiences of some local farmers growing Jatropha at their farms have also been inspiring so far. Jatropha cultivation is to be addressed for biodiesel in the country for gaining the benefits of Carbon sequestering. There are the gains of environment upgrading and reclamation of ruined soils. At CARS farms best germination of 66c was documented in the seed samples imported from Thailand by PSO. However, seed germination in nursery of PSO from another lot of Thai origin was 86-99pc.

Rather than using the trade in oil of other countries or fossil fuels, we must produce vegetable oil to power our economy and enhance development process. By demonstrating that biofuels can be produced in a sustainable and economical way, cultivation of Jatropha hopes to start a mass effort to mitigate climate change across the entire world. The world should look to the Tropics for biofuels rather than looking to the Middle East for conventional oil. We can save foreign exchange and reduce energy expenditures by producing more biofuels. There is only one Jatropha oil extraction and processing company in Pakistan which is located at Karachi. Policies improving oil extraction, proper market and cost should be established to make the farmer confident enough to grow Jatropha. Moreover farmer should be aware of production technology and proper utilization of marginal, poor and eroded lands. 500 plants per acre can be cultivated on marginal lands not only filling our vehicles but also giving the export oil. However, being exotic species protocols should be framed simultaneously to allow import of seeds of good quality, known origin and proven track record if commercialized. NGO’s should also take part in the adoption of this miraculous plant. Legislative action by the government is needed to enhance biodiesel production.