Study names top would-be biodiesel producers
Soybeans are used as a source of biodiesel
25 October 2007
[MONTEVIDEO] Colombia, Ghana, Malaysia, Thailand and Uruguay are the top
five developing countries likely to attract biodiesel investment because
of their strong agricultural industries, relative stability and low
debt, says a US study.
The analysis, 'A Global Comparison of National Biodiesel Production
Potentials', was published online yesterday (24 October) in
Environmental Science and Technology.
The analysis ranks 226 countries according to their potential to make
large volumes of biodiesel at low cost.
Matt Johnston, one of the authors from the US-based University of
Wisconsin-Madison, told SciDev.Net that they used data from public
online sources, primarily the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and
several economic and development measurements.
The main objective was to identify developing countries already
exporting large amounts of vegetable oil for profit — from palm or
soybean crops for example— but who may not have considered the option of
refining it into biodiesel, he said.
According to the study, these countries could improve their trade
balance — the difference between a county's imports and exports — by
exporting biodiesel or using the fuel to satisfy their own energy needs.
Virginia Lobato, an independent Uruguayan expert on biofuels, agrees,
saying, "Colombia is privileged because it has many native oilseeds to
develop a biodiesel industry without putting its food security at risk."
But she told SciDev.Net that although Uruguay has a reliable climate for
farming and political and social stability, it doesn't yet grow the raw
materials to produce a variety of biofuels. Lobato believes this study
could influence Uruguayan policies on biodiesel, especially because is
currently aiming to attract foreign capital.
Lobato warned that developing countries should not make large
investments in biofuel before analysing the potential consequences, such
as endangering the food security of poor people by turning food crops
Critics say biofuel production can also lead to deforestation as land is
cleared for biofuel crop farming.
But the study authors hope that highlighting countries with potential
will help them anticipate and mitigate problems.
The authors estimate that if the 119 countries in their analysis
converted their exported vegetable oil to biodiesel, they could meet 4–5
per cent of the current demand for petroleum diesel.
Link to abstract of paper in Environmental Science and Technology
Reference: Environmental Science and Technology doi 10.1021/es062459k (2007)
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