Yawning need for exploring energy options

DIMINISHING ENERGY resources, rising oil prices, climatic changes and other related issues have led the world to further focus on alternate, environment friendly and renewable energy resources. Since Pakistan is confronting with the severe energy crisis for the last many years and, according to a fresh international survey, the environment degradation is incurring over $4.9 billion loss to the country per annum, it needs to aggressively explore alternate energy resources to overcome the energy crisis. A report by Oil Companies Advisory Committee shows that Pakistan on an average consumes eight billion tons of diesel and 7.2 billion tons of furnace oil per year. It is noteworthy, that presently, over 40 countries are evaluating the potential of consuming this pure vegetable oil to manufacture diesel. Where majority of the world states have opted to get solar, wind and coal energy and are successfully relying on the alternate energy resources, the production of biodiesel from Jatropha curcas has rapidly got a significant status. Jatropha curcas, originated in Central America, is a drought-resistant and perennial plant growing well in marginal lands. It is easy to maintain, grows quickly and gives seed production up to 50 years. In the wake of rising issues of environment degradation, climate changes, the exploration of environment friendly biofuels has become a yawning need across the world. According to the fresh studies, Jatropha seeds and kernels contain oil content up to 25-30pc and 50-60pc respectively which can be processed to produce high quality bio-diesel that burns with smokeless flame and tested effectively as a fuel for standard diesel engine. Pakistan having arid to semi-arid climate with a total area of 79.61 million hectares is experimenting this plant since 2007 but with no patronisation from official quarters. The establishment of a centre of excellence in the country can cater to the related needs as presently, there is only one Jatropha oil extraction and processing company in Pakistan. Rather than using the trade in oil of other countries or fossil fuels, the authorities should pursue farmers to produce vegetable oil to power the national economy and enhance development process. By demonstrating that biodiesel can be produced in a sustainable and economical way, cultivation of Jatropha hopes to start a mass effort to mitigate climate change. Policies improving oil extraction, proper market and cost should be established to make the farmers confident enough to grow Jatropha. Moreover, farmers should be aware of production technology and proper utilisation of marginal, poor and eroded lands. For this purpose, the government should allow import of seeds of good quality, known origin and proven track record. Since, the persistent energy crisis is very critical and apparently no solution is in sight, the government has no option but to wake up to the situation.

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