The Biofuel business globally is booming, in Costa Rica it is exploding.
The world has moved, by necessity, into a new era of alternative energy solutions. Three critical factors have motivated Biofuel development into the largest growth industry in the world.
- Peak oil, the singularity when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is attained and thereafter declines, will be reached in this decade.
- Rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India are placing ever-increasing pressure on the already strained global production lines of petroleum. This trend only shows signs of worsening over the next two decades and is predicted to drive up the price of a barrel of crude oil to between $200-$250 (Goldman Sachs, 2009; Gazprom, 2009).
- The realization that global consumption of fossil fuels has pushed greenhouse gas emissions to a dangerously high level has resulted in a Global Green Movement socially as well in the financial sector.
These three critical factors, buttressed by numerous others, have lead to a search for alternative energy sources, with particular interest in a step-in replacement for gasoline and diesel. Biodiesel, which is the production of diesel from plants and algae instead of petroleum, shows incredible promise. However, most of the plants under development as sources contain serious caveats such as being primary food stocks or requiring prime agricultural land on which to grow. One plant, Jatropha curcas, lacks these drawbacks and is emerging as the premiere eco-friendly alternative to both petroleum and other bio-energy sources.
Jatropha is a non-food stock tree that originated in Central America and was exported throughout the world during the 1700’s. This amazing plant has many beneficial uses in addition to the oil producing seeds from which the biodiesel is made, including medical and cosmetic applications for the seedcake, glycerin and latex by-products.
Jatropha is seeing enormous growth and worldwide cultivation, with a concomitant increase in Jatropha based projects, and is expected to reach 5 Million hectares by 2010. If this current trend continues more than 13 Million hectares will be planted by 2015 generating an estimated 1 billion USD annually.
While worldwide growth of Jatropha continues to increase, Costa Rica is in a unique position to become the world leader in Jatopha production as the seeds from Jatropha currently growing in Costa Rica have oil content as high as 42% and one hectare of this incredibly robust plant can produce 800 gallons of Jatropha crude oil (JCO).
Spearheading the Costa Rican Jatropha Initative is the Cost Rica Seed Company, the most advanced biofuel plantation in Central and North America, which began research and development projects on Jatropha more than four years ago. Their eighty-hectare plantation was the center for a world-class event, the Jatropha Harvest Experience, in April of 2009. This three day long visionary conference brought together investors, researchers and governmental bodies from eleven countries and is expected to be even more impressive next year.
The Costa Rica Seed company, partnering with United Biofuels of America, has initiated the Million Gallon Challenge in order to meet US government and regional contracts for JCO conversion to JP8 – Jet fuel and Green Diesel. Meeting this goal will require the cultivation of 800,000 hectares of Jatropha plantations regionally, producing 1million gallons per day initially and 2 million gallons per day within seven years in addition to generating over 40,000 jobs.
In response to this challenge, a Jatropha National Cooperative has been initiated within the small town of Tempate in Costa Rica, which has long been considered the brith place of Jatropha and the source of its local namesake. The slogan Yo Vivo Verde! (I Live Green!) has been chosen for the campaign, as over 10,000 hectares will be planted in the region, and Tempate will be the first to be not only carbon neutral, but the first town where the economy will be driven entirely by the production of green diesel and the byproducts.
These two initiatives, the Million Gallon Challenge and the Jatropha National Cooperative, are beneficial on many levels. The Costa Rica Carbon Neutral goals of 2021 can only be attained with ambiguous initiatives such as there. The local economies of small towns and rural communities will benefit tremendously as Jatropha compensates for other crops that have seen sharp declines in revenues over the past ten years due to global competition.
For more information on Biofuel development in Costa Rica visit: www.costaricaseedcomopany.com