The Incontiguous Brick

July 28, 2007

Farmers switching to Jatropha bushes, too bad you can’t eat it.

Filed under: Environment,Oil,Warnings — iknowkeith @ 3:07 pm

We all know oil is running out. Even the EIA projects it will start drying up around 2040. Some say it is already on its way out. Not that oil will go away completely, but it will become too expensive to use it in great quantity like we do today. But that’s okay cause we’ve got biofuel!

Okay, so now they are saying that turning corn into biodiesel is no good cause it drives the price of corn too high for food use. Already the price of tortillas are going up in Mexico. Even beer is getting more expensive because farmers are switching crops to grow corn. Predictions include mass starvation in low-income areas because basic staples (corn for food or animal feed) will be too expensive.

    So how do we solve it?

jatropha_seeds.jpgThe Times Online tells us the solution is in the jatropha bush. This poisonous plant produces a very oily seed that may be ideal for biofuel. In fact, the seeds are already 40% oil when crushed. Eating just three seeds can kill a person but the plants are 10 times more fuel producing than corn.

Jatropha can be grown in many places that food plants cannot. Therefore, it sounds like a good idea. But lets be real. The economy is driven by individuals deciding to invest in activities that will produce the most return for their investment. This includes farmers. If a farmer can make more money by growing a poisonous plant to power cars than he can make by growing food, he will plant jatropha and let some other chump grow the food. How else can you explain the tobacco industry? But what happens when lots of farmers do this? Price of food goes up. Guess what happens when the demand for food goes higher than the amount produced. Price of food goes WAY up. But the farms that made the switch to jatropha can’t simply sell their plants to provide food instead of fuel because (unlike corn) these plants are poison.

Every major famine in the world has been caused by man’s folly. Whether it is war, bad government policy, or some other man-made factor famine is never a “natural” phenomenon. Hopefully, the next big famine will not be because we decided to grow poisonous plants instead of food.



  1. What about the fact that jatropha can be grown in areas where food crops cannot? There are plenty of unemployed throughout the world that can have a job though contract farming. Also, read up on Mali, where the plant is being grown to provide rural towns with electricity, as the oil is good for running a nice generator without the need for processing that corn relies so heavily upon. Apply that electiricty or oil to other agricultural wonders and you have more productiviy and happyier stomachs. Maybe jatropha isn’t all that bad.

    Comment by John — July 29, 2007 @ 10:47 pm | Reply

  2. but is ther a poison about jatropa?

    Comment by sharon — September 11, 2007 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

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