We are no longer the strangers we once were to the concept that our way of life is an unsustainable one. The finite nature of the fossil fuels that we depend upon indicates that sooner rather than later we have to find an alternative way to keep the cogs of our modern world in motion.
Over the last 20 years, scientists have been hard at work to find an option that is viable in cost, efficiency and sustainability
Various avenues have been explored:
2) Natural Gas
For the purpose of this post I will be focusing on Bio-fuel.
According to http://www.biofuels.co.uk/ ‘Biodiesel entails the growing of crops that contain high amounts of natural oil, then through a process of hydrogenation or refining a more compatible bio diesel substitute is created, which can then be mixed with mineral diesel to be used in any diesel-powered automobile.’
Now what role could Panama possibly play in the development of sustainable energy?
A window of opportunity in this respect has been opened for Panama. The Bio-crop ‘Jatropha Curcas’ can be grown and cultivated in this tropical/subtropical environment of ours.
The crop is hailed as a drought resistant perennial crop that can grow in marginal/poor soil conditions. The crop produces nuts with an oil content of 37%. This oil can be combusted as a fuel without being refined, burning with a clear smoke-free flame.
This crop has attracted a lot of attention in recent years due these aforementioned characteristics. Its ability to grow on marginal lands means that plantations of Jatropha Curcas would not displace any existing rainforest or food crops. However, much of the press about this so-called ‘miracle’ crop is misleading. Although this crop may surpass others in terms of its growth capability, the growth and the mass cultivation of the crop are two very different things. In order for the Jatropha Curcas to flourish it requires; certain climatic conditions, fertilizer, the correct agronomy practices and a strain of seed that can thrive in this particular environment.
It can be grown well on degraded soils having low fertility and moisture and also on stony, shallow and even on calcareous soils. For economic returns, a soil with moderate fertility is preferred. The emergence of seed requires hot and humid climate. It can be cultivated successfully in the regions having scanty to heavy rainfall. Jatropha Curcas was announced by A. K. M. A. Islam*, Z. Yaakob and N. Anuar as “a multipurpose plant with considerable potential for the tropics”
Through the implementation of various ‘test sites’ placed across the areas that show the most promising characteristics in terms of available land and climate, an appropriate strain of seed can begin to be developed which will yield best under these conditions. Matching the science with the correct agronomy practices should provide Panama with a great resource that will prove to be a sustainable asset to the economy on a local level just as much as a commercial one. The nature of the crop requires a manual harvest rather than the machine based harvest that is used for the ethanol crop. This should provide work for local people who can use this crop in addition to what they are already farming.
In contribution to the crops potential as a source of Bio-fuel, there are many different off-products that can be derived from the cultivation process. These include; Green charcoal, Fertilizer, Pesticide and meal cake for livestock. This does not only emphasize the sustainable ethos of the plantation but also increases its viability, as another income source can be extracted from the project.